The Longest Day, Part 1
Written by: Todd Jensen and Patrick Toman
With contributions by: Kathy Pogge
Story Concept by: Todd Jensen and Patrick Toman
Illustrations by: Jessica Entis
Previously on Gargoyles...
"C'mon, George. We've worked together too long to play these games."
"Okay," he said finally, between forkfuls of noodles out of a take-out box. "I was running a scam and I got found out. The alias I was using is no good and the police are staking out my place." He laughed. "Besides, I really needed a bath. I would've made Vince smell good."
"Hoo boy." Candy rolled her eyes and continued to eat. "Do you need a place to crash?"
"Well, your couch is pretty comfy, but I don't really trust your roomie yet. It's not the Ritz, but I've got a place to go."
"Heck, even I lock my bedroom door around here. I don't know what happened with her procedure but Rita's teeth are getting all pointy."
"Like a snake." Candy shuddered.
~ When the Bough Breaks - Part 2 ~
* * * * *
"A wise warrior considers all options," said Sata.
Goliath absorbed the words of his clanmates while Elisa fumed. "Goliath, you aren't actually considering this, are you?" she said angrily. The big lavender gargoyle turned his attention back to her. "You guys are supposed to be protecting the city, not endangering it! There's got to be another option here."
* * *
"I've never seen them fight like this," commented Fox from where she stood to the other side of her husband. "Angela looks completely bewildered, but Elisa looks ready to draw blood."
"Indeed," agreed Xanatos. "If Goliath had shoes, I wouldn't want to be in them right now."
* * *
Goliath's eyes darted to each member of the clan as they spoke, and returned in the end to Elisa.
"I've still got to change and I'm already late for my shift," she said, finally speaking. Then she turned and walked from the room without another word.
* * *
"I'm sorry, this is all my fault." Angela explained.
"What happened?" Demona managed.
Angela pulled back and guilt covered her face. "I cast a spell on you. I thought it would help you to better understand humans." Her eyes looked down to her lap. "But something went wrong. I didn't think out the consequences of the spell as well as I should have."
"Angela! After all I have tried to teach you! You DARE to pull something this foolish?"
The young gargess flinched then looked up into her mother's eyes. "I will never touch magic again."
As Demona's memories continued to return to her, she began to recall a few of her own magical mishaps during her own apprentice period. Her expression softened.
"Angela, my daughter, we all make mistakes at one point or another. Do not let this keep you from your lessons." She punctuated her words by drawing Angela into a warm hug.
* * *
Angela put her arm around Demona as they turned back to the fireplace. They had watched the flames dancing for several silent seconds before Angela noticed the new painting hanging over the mantle.
"Where did you get that?" the girl asked, staring at it in wonder.
"It was a gift... from a fr-," Demona began, "from an artist I just hired to help spruce up the Nightstone offices."
Angela smiled at her mother's slip of the tongue. "But I thought you hated humans," she accused mildly, still smiling.
Demona shrugged, and a small smile formed on her lips. "Some of them I can... tolerate."
~ Lethe ~
* * * * *
Goliath and Talon stood guarding each other's backs in the center of the melee. Talon fired a blast of electricity at a fully formed cheetah and grinned a feline smile of satisfaction as it fell away, howling inhumanly. "What did you do to my sister to get her so mad at you?" he asked Goliath as the gargoyle leader lashed out at his own opponent.
"I did nothing!" Goliath protested. The sudden burst of frustration gave him the leverage he needed to pry the were-cheetah from his throat. He tossed the creature away from himself, knocking a half-changed servant away from Hudson. "Elisa does not understand that I must command my clan as I feel it best!"
Talon ducked a charge and smiled, then laughed despite the dire situation. "You're fighting about who wears the pants?" He rolled his eyes as he danced away from a cheetah, trying to put enough distance between them so that he could fire an energy blast without feeling the recoil. "You have my sympathies, man!"
~ The Battle Below ~
* * * * *
The Longest Day, Part 1
* * * * *
Thursday, June 18, 1998 - Castle Wyvern, 8:31 PM
The last rays of the sun disappeared below the western horizon, marking the end of another late spring day. As the night winds began to blow about the ancient Scottish castle perched atop the Eyrie Building, cracks formed upon the eleven statues roosting on the weatherworn battlements. Then, with a mighty rumbling sound, the stone shards burst from the awakening gargoyles, who stretched and roared to greet the night.
Broadway stepped down from his perch and extended a hand to help Angela from hers, mirroring Brooklyn and Sata. Ariana and Graeme were already chasing Nudnik along the battlements before Lexington could help Hudson to the ground.
"Ach, thank ye, lad," the old warrior said, rubbing his back. Bronx bounded up and lifted his head automatically for a scratch between the ears, with which Hudson and Lexington both obliged him.
Goliath spiraled down from the tower as Coldstone and Coldfire stepped from the shadows of the wall, and alighted on the paving stones near them.
"Greetings, brother," Coldstone said.
"Good evening, brother, sister," Goliath replied.
"The day was uneventful," Coldfire added, responding to her lavender rookery brother's unasked question. Goliath nodded, and turned to the others as his second in command approached.
"Goliath," Brooklyn asked, giving a sideways glance at his children, who had finally gotten Nudnik to sit still, "do you think we should patrol the city tonight?"
"Yes," replied the clan's leader. "But we must be wary. The recent attack upon the Labyrinth has made it clear that our enemies are growing more confident. We must not let our guard down, even for a moment, while we are outside the castle walls."
Brooklyn sighed. "Remember the good old days?" he asked. "When we just had to protect the city from human criminals? What I wouldn't give to have those back again."
"Me, too," said Broadway, stepping over with his arm around Angela. "I'd rather take on Tony Dracon's whole gang over a few of those Halflings, any night." He looked at his intended, adding quickly, "not that I'm afraid of them, of course."
David Xanatos picked that moment to make his presence known. "Ah yes, those were the days," he interjected, stepping out onto the parapets. "You knew who you were then. 'Goyles were 'goyles and men were men," he quipped, grinning.
Sata moved in beside her mate, a questioning look on her face as she watched Broadway roll his eyes and Angela softly chuckle to herself.
"No matter how much you think you want or need it, the past has to remain just that, the past," Sata commented seriously. "We must focus on the reality of the here and now... and right now that includes the threat of the Unseelie Court and their allies."
"Agreed," Goliath rumbled. "We must do whatever we can to keep the Unseelie from gaining control of this city," said Goliath.
"Which is why I need to borrow Lexington for just a moment," Xanatos intruded again. This time, he succeeded in garnering a direct response.
"Over here!" Lexington called, waving a four-fingered hand. He gave Bronx one last playful pat on the head as Xanatos looked over and headed in his direction.
"So let's patrol," Brooklyn said as Xanatos and Lexington stepped off to the side to talk. "Anyone got any preferences on how to do this tonight?" he asked.
"Ariana," Sata called.
Both children immediately ceased their roughhousing and turned toward their parents, a panting Nudnik sitting on his haunches between them. "Yes, Okasan?" the young female replied.
"You and Angela are with me, tonight." She looked at the pup a moment. "And Nudnik, too. Graeme, you patrol with your father."
"Guess it's a 'guys night out', right, kiddo?" Brooklyn said as he wrapped his arm around his son. Graeme didn't say anything, but gave his sister an "oh-no-Dad's-trying-to-be-cool" look. "Broadway and Lex," he continued, peering around to see if his web-winged rookery brother done talking to Xanatos, "you're with me, too."
Lexington looked over at him briefly. "I'll be there in a second," he yelled, then turned back to Xanatos. "Like I was saying, what you need to do is reverse the polarity of the neutron flow..."
Goliath nodded, satisfied with the groupings. "It's good to have you by my side again, old friend," Goliath said to Hudson as he ambled over with Lexington.
"Aye, lad," he replied. Bronx circled behind and butted against Goliath's massive flank.
"Yes, and you will come with us, too," Goliath added. Bronx barked back happily.
"Lad," Hudson said, tilting his head in the direction of Coldstone and his mate. "We could always use an extra strong arm or two."
"My apologies, brother," Goliath said, turning to the two constructs. "I meant no slight. I thought you would want to relax after patrolling all day."
"Thank you, my brother," Coldstone said.
"Besides," Coldfire added, "someone should be here to protect the castle and those within."
Goliath acquiesced. "Very well." He turned to the others. "Come, let's begin our patrol."
Sata, Angela, and Ariana, the latter carrying Nudnik, took to air a moment later, turning their wings north. Goliath and Hudson followed shortly after, carrying Bronx between them and heading south. As their forms shrank away in the distance, Brooklyn, Broadway, and Graeme stood on the edge of the parapets, still waiting for Lexington.
"I think you'd better join your clanmates," Xanatos suggested after glancing up and catching the glare in Brooklyn's eyes.
"I can show you what I mean later," Lexington called back to the man as he hurried over to the parapets.
"I'll probably be in my office when you return," Xanatos replied. "Have a safe night," he added.
The four gargoyles acknowledged his words with a wave; a moment later, they were gliding away on the late spring breeze.
"After you," Xanatos said, gesturing toward the door. Coldstone and Coldfire moved inside, holding hands, and, after another brief look toward the winged shapes receding toward the horizon, Xanatos followed after them.
* * * * *
Broadway and 42nd Street, 9:21 PM
A hissing, like that of an angry snake, filled the air. In the shadows of a darkened subway stairwell, a tall figure stood, scanning the sky with binoculars, oblivious to the menacing sound coming from behind him. Beside him, two others waited, peering over the top of the stairs, watching the cars go by. All the while, the noise continued, pausing periodically, then continuing again, each time increasing in anger and intensity.
Adding a final stroke to the balloon letter "L," the graffiti artist stepped back, spray paint cans in each hand, admiring his work. "RAEL" was now emblazoned on the wall in five-foot high blood-red letters, outlined in yellow and punctuated by a similarly patterned seven-pointed star.
"Another masterpiece," he commented, grinning.
"So proclaims the Ethereal Aerosol King," whispered one of the others, a slender, petite woman with her wild dark hair styled like an eighties glam rocker. She turned her attention from the passing cabs to the sky, following the gaze of the one with the binoculars. The short man beside her chuckled, and tucked his hands into his faded denim jacket.
"See anything, Vince?" asked the smaller man at last.
"Uh-uh," Vince replied, shaking his head, as he continued to watch the heavens. "No sign of them anywhere so far."
The momentary smile gone from his face, the graffiti artist pitched the empty cans down the steps, where they clattered noisily into the darkness. "This is a waste of time," he grumbled as he drew a fresh can from inside his leather jacket and began shaking it vigorously. "Just waiting for those things to show up. Whose freakin' plan was this anyway?"
"Yours, Rael," replied Vince, putting down the binoculars and turning to glance sharply at him - and spying the still-wet paint on the wall.
The short man turned with Vince. "Yeah, man, it was..." he trailed off as Rael shot back an icy stare at Vince. For a moment, the only sound disturbing the cold silence was the rattle of the mixing ball as Rael continued to shake the paint can.
"Shut your trap, Jake," the woman said in a scratchy soprano, shoving the small man aside and stepping over to Rael. "Don't question our fearless leader." Her tone was slightly mocking as she leaned up against the wall beside him, and he stopped shaking the can long enough to glare at her as well.
"OK," Rael said, holding his voice low for the moment, "so do any of you chumps have any better ideas? He turned a hard stare back to the woman. "Rita?"
Rita rolled her eyes and cracked her gum. "You're s'posed to be the big shot with all the great ideas," she shot back. "That's why Mouse made you leader, ain't it?"
Rael balled his free hand into a fist, which started glowing faintly in the dimness of the stairwell.
"Uh, I got an idea," Jake said quickly. All eyes turned to him. "Ever heard of how Mohammed went to the mountain when it wouldn't come to him?" he said.
"Yeah. So? What's that got to do with those monsters, anyway?" Vince asked.
"We know that those flying creeps nest at the Eyrie Building," said Jake confidently. "So let's just head over there during the daytime, and smash them into rubble! That would make things a whole lot simpler for us!"
The other three just stared at him, Rita shaking her head. Vince sighed and turned his binoculars back to the sky.
"Great idea, Jake," Rael said, patting him on the shoulder mockingly. "And just how are you proposing that we break into the Eyrie Building? Xanatos has that place rigged up with the toughest security system on the East Coast! Breaking into the White House would be easier than that!"
"Heh! I could get in there. I'd just put on a beret, tell 'em I'm an intern, and walk right in," Rita said, brushing a hand over her hair and laughing at her own joke.
"You mean crawl right in on your knees," Vince added, eyes still fixed on the sky. Rita scowled and stepped away from the wall, but another frigid glance from Rael froze her where she was. The de-facto leader turned back to Jake.
"George and his team did it," Jake protested.
"Yeah, and we all know how long they managed to stay," replied Rael. "Besides, you know what effect sunlight has on us now." He talked sweetly, but his hand remained on Jake's shoulder, and Jake winced as his grip tightened. "I'll tell you what, Jake," he said, his voice taking an angry tone again as he clamped down on the man's shoulder, forcing him nearly to his knees. "Just leave the thinking to those of us with brains from now on..."
"Hey!" shouted Rita, pointing upwards. "Look, up in the sky!"
Vince hurriedly panned across the sky with his binoculars. Four dark shapes moved against the stars, almost overhead. "That sure ain't Superman," he said, nodding with satisfaction.
Rael released Jake from the vice-like shoulder pinch and tucked the unused spray can back into his jacket. He looked up at the sky, too, and grinned. "Lady and gentlemen - and I used those terms loosely - let's move."
Silently they crept from the subway stairwell and vanished into the shadows of the street.
* * * * *
Over Central Park, 9:43 PM
Hudson held Bronx against his chest and looked over at his silent companion for the fifth time. "'Tis quiet tonight," he offered at last.
"Mmm," the big gargoyle muttered in reply.
"Lad, is somethin' botherin' ye?" the elder gargoyle finally asked.
Goliath looked up at him.
"It's Elisa, isn't it," Hudson stated.
"Why do you say that?" Goliath rumbled, suddenly uncomfortable.
"I still have one guid eye, lad," the bearded gargoyle half-chuckled, "I've seen the way you two have been behavin' lately. Why, ye've barely spoken a dozen civil words between the two of ye since that big to-do about Demona."
Goliath growled slightly. "She did not approve of the manner in which we resolved the problem and broke the spell," he said, the frustration apparent in his voice, "Yet she was the first to support Angela in demanding that the clan help."
Hudson gave a full chuckle this time. "Aye, lad, females can be vexing like that." He smiled wistfully for a moment. "But it's been over a month, lad," he continued. "Don't ye think it's time to talk to her about it?"
"She will talk when she is ready to talk," Goliath replied.
"Och, ye both be too stubborn for yer own guid," Hudson scoffed, shaking his head. "I dinnae think, though, that you were afraid to face her," he added, a glimmer in his eye.
Goliath looked up sharply. "I am NOT afraid to speak to her," he replied forcefully.
"Aye, lad, 'tis understandable," Hudson said consolingly. "An angry female can be a most terrifying thing."
Goliath frowned. "I am going to speak to Elisa," he announced resolutely. He banked his wings and peeled away.
"Guid luck, lad," Hudson called after him. He looked down at Bronx; the gargoyle beast stared back up at him quizzically. "And to think after all these centuries, that trick still works," the old warrior commented slyly to his four-legged companion. Bronx replied by licking his face, and the two circled down toward Central Park.
* * * * *
Pier 24, 9:47 PM
"Is this the place, boss?" Pal Joey asked nervously.
"Yeah. Stop the car," Tony Dracon ordered. He rolled down the window and leaned partway out as a dark figure stepped from the shadows.
"Right on time, Glasses," he greeted. The tall man nodded. "You ready to do some shopping?" Tony inquired. "I hear this place is having a going-out-of-business sale."
Glasses gave an abbreviated chuckle. "Everything's all set," he replied. As if responding to his words, a pair of bright headlights came to life behind him, accompanied by the awakening roar of a diesel engine. Tony and his men watched, nonchalant, as the bulldozer rolled out of the darkness, made a sharp turn, and plowed through the cement block wall of the warehouse.
As the dust settled, Dracon, Glasses, and Pal Joey stepped through the newly created "door." "I want everything that isn't nailed down," Dracon ordered as a truck was backed up near the hole in the wall and a small crew of men in dark coveralls began scurrying around like ants on a picnic. Then he turned to Glasses and Pal Joey. "And you two know what to do with the stuff that is."
Joey held up a briefcase and patted it on the side affectionately, grinning. "We sure do, boss. We sure do."
* * *
Atop the north tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, Sata stood up, frowning. "Let's go," she said as she opened her wings, her voice soft and cold. Angela and Ariana exchanged a look, then spread their wings as well, following the jade female down toward the docks.
* * * * *
Elisa's apartment, 9:54 PM
Elisa unlocked the storage box and removed her service pistol, loaded it with a full clip, and slipped it into the holster at her side. Placing the box back in the cabinet, she moved across the kitchen and picked her keys and her handcuffs up from the counter, placing the latter onto her belt. She was reaching for her red bomber jacket, hanging on the back of a chair, when a rapping noise startled her.
She looked up, across the living room to the glass doors leading to the balcony, and caught sight of a familiar form. Goliath stood outside, wings cloaked, arms folded, and a determined expression on his face.
"What're you doing here? I've got to be at the station soon," she said in greeting as she unlocked and opened the patio door. She stepped back as Goliath ducked through the door, planting a hand on her hip as she waited for an answer.
Goliath looked at her, taking in the scowl on her face, the weapon hanging in its leather harness at her side, and the stainless steel handcuffs gleaming on her belt. Then he looked again, his eyes following the curve of her form and the soft waves of her hair, and all the things he had thought of to say during the short glide over evaporated.
"Good evening, Elisa," he said at last, meekly.
Elisa took her hand off of her hip, her body taking a less threatening posture. "Good evening, Goliath," she responded levelly.
"I... was hoping we could talk," Goliath said carefully.
"About what?" Elisa asked. "The way you endangered the city last month? I thought that discussion was closed," she snapped. Goliath opened his mouth to reply, but she didn't let him. "You knew how I felt about that 'plan,' yet you went ahead with it anyway... and you didn't even have the decency to tell me yourself - I have to hear it from Xanatos and Fox, and they act like I'm supposed to be happy about it."
"I did what was best for the clan and for Demona. You yourself wanted her memories returned to her, as well," Goliath argued.
"Not at the risk of the whole city!" Elisa replied. "Goliath, don't you realize what could've happened if something had gone wrong? If the Unseelie had decided to take advantage of that moment and make their attack? Or what if someone had seen you guys? Everything we've worked so hard for could've been undone - the city could've turned on you again! And this time, I wouldn't have been able to protect you!"
Goliath listened patiently as Elisa enumerated her frustrations, then took a step toward her. "Elisa, do you not think the same worries did not go through my mind as well that night? The whole clan knew the risks, but they were willing to take them."
"The city wasn't yours to risk," the human woman objected. "You put millions of lives in danger beside your own, and you had no right to do that."
"How else would you have had us break the spell on Demona, then?" Goliath questioned.
"I don't know!" Elisa shot back. "But I'm sure another way could've been found if you had given it some time. It wouldn't have hurt her to be 'human' for a few more days."
"It was not right for her to remain that way," Goliath replied. "You yourself helped convince me of that. We had to act." He growled at the irony of realizing he was now defending Demona.
"So you placed her well-being over that of the entire city," Elisa retorted. "That was even more wrong than Angela denying Demona her memories in the first place... and at least she admitted she was wrong." She gave a frustrated shake of the head, and fixed her eyes firmly on Goliath's. "The needs of the many outweigh..."
"The needs of the few," Goliath concluded.
"Or the one," Elisa corrected, eyes flashing at having been interrupted.
"Yes, I have heard that maxim before," Goliath replied. "But sometimes the opposite is true as well." He sighed deeply. "Angela was right... Demona is still clan... we could not just turn our backs on her again."
"I thought I was part of the clan, too," Elisa said, hurt.
"You are," Goliath said sincerely. "But I am the leader, and I must make decisions sometimes that effect us all. And sometimes members of the clan do not agree with the decisions the leader makes."
Elisa crossed her arms. "So my opinion doesn't matter."
"That is not what I said," Goliath replied, sighing.
An uneasy silence filled the air between them for a long moment.
"I have to get to work," Elisa said at last. "I'll... stop by the castle before sunrise," she added softly.
Goliath brightened slightly at that. "I will see you later, then," he said.
Elisa walked over to let him out. He was halfway out the door when she put her hand on his arm, stopping him. Goliath turned back to her, startled by her touch.
"Be careful out there. All of you," she said. Her eyes showed uncertainty.
"We will. You will do the same?" he returned.
The dark-haired woman nodded, then watched him go.
* * * * *
Pier 24, 10:05 PM
Angela crept up to the edge of the roof and peered over. The first person she saw on the ground below had a shock of white in his wavy dark hair.
"It's Dracon!" she gasped, shocked.
Sata looked where the younger female pointed. "So it is. He must be a very brave man."
"Why do you say that?" Angela asked.
Sata pointed to an emblem painted on the wall of the warehouse Dracon's men were currently emptying. "That building belongs to the Yakuza. That kanji symbol is meant to protect it and ensure good fortune."
"I think they'd have been better off hiring a security guard than a sign painter," Angela commented, watching as the men below loaded crates into a truck.
Ariana came up between the two adults, peering over the low wall to examine the action for herself. "Mom, Aunt Angela... why does that man have a skunk on his head?"
Angela chuckled softly, and Sata cracked a smile. Nudnik took that moment to pop his head up as well. His eyes darted about rapidly while his tongue lolled over the edge. Ariana pushed him back down and quieted him before he could start yipping.
"So are we gonna kick some tail?" Ariana asked, drawing her bo staff from her back and twirling it.
Sata put a hand on her daughter's shoulder. "Be patient, Ari-chan."
"Yes," Angela agreed, stooping down to look Ariana in the eye. "We don't want to just charge in without a plan, do we?"
Ariana chewed on one of her braids for a second and then shook her head. "No, Aunt Angela."
"Good." Angela smiled. "Because I think I have an idea..."
* * * * *
Club Lotus, Little Japan, 10:10 PM
"Get those clowns off the stage and get us some real music," a young, well-dressed Japanese man ordered, pointing to a trio of intoxicated men clustered around the microphone. The other three men sitting around the small table rose as one, and moved off to carry out their leader's wishes. "Now where were we, enzerubebii?" Tommy Kimura asked, turning back to the small woman tucked under his arm. She giggled and ducked her head submissively, avoiding eye contact.
A few seconds later, loud, hard rock from the jukebox replaced the drunken stylings from the karaoke machine. Tommy bent his head down to deliver a kiss.
"Kimura-san, I am sorry to disturb you," a hesitant voice interrupted.
Tommy looked up sharply, still keeping his arm around his date as he glared at his lieutenant. "What do you want, Ryu? Can't you see that I'm busy?!" he snapped.
"My deepest apologies," the man said, bowing at the waist, "but I just received a call." He looked around and leaned closer, lowering his voice. "There's trouble at one of our warehouses uptown. Pier 24."
Tommy gave him a blank look. "Then deal with it," he replied.
"Hai, Kimura-san." Ryu gave another bow and hurried off as Tommy returned his attentions to the shy, quiet young woman sitting beside him.
* * * * *
Near Times Square, 10:12 PM
Broadway surveyed the dark streets below and sighed. "I wonder what Angela's doing right now," he mumbled.
Lexington rolled his eyes. "Would you stop sulking? It's not like you don't patrol with her all the time. One night with us won't kill you."
"Yeah, Broadway," Brooklyn consoled. "Sata isn't here either, and you don't see me dragging my wings on the ground."
"But you two have been together forever," Broadway responded, sighing again.
Graeme smiled and opened his beak. "Yeah, Dad, you did say you and mom once saw a dinosaur..."
Brooklyn cut him off with a look. "Let's take a break," he said authoritatively. "This old, decrepit gargoyle needs to rest his wings."
Graeme grinned wryly and followed after his father as Brooklyn pulled back his wings and began a slow descent toward the rooftops. Lexington followed, and, after letting out another forlorn sigh, Broadway followed as well.
* * * * *
23rd Precinct House, 10:14 PM
Captain Chavez paused at her office door, listened, and sighed. "Isn't anyone going to get that phone?" she asked loudly to no one in particular as she strode across the room, leaving her keys dangling from the lock.
Several evening shift detectives clustered around a newly opened box of donuts set down their coffees and started to rise, but Chavez put them back into their seats with an annoyed glare.
Pushing aside the stack of dog-eared manila folders that had fallen on top of it, Chavez picked up the receiver, snagging the phone in mid-ring. "Hello, 23rd Precinct," she greeted, a trace of annoyance still lingering in her voice.
"Hello, um... Elisa?" a female voice on the other end asked.
"This is Captain Chavez. Detective Maza isn't in right now. Can I help you?"
"Umm... what about Detective Bluestone? Can I speak to him?"
Chavez glanced across to the adjoining desk. A cup of coffee sat cooling beside some open files, but the chair was empty. "He's not at his desk right now. May I ask who this is and take a message?" she replied.
"Okay," the voice replied hesitantly. There was a pause. Chavez picked up a pen.
* * *
Matt Bluestone stepped out of the file room, a heavy banker's box in his arms, and was turning to jerk the door closed, balancing the box on one knee, when a blur of red crashed into him.
"Hey, slow down, Maza!" he admonished as he juggled the box.
"Sorry," Elisa replied, grabbing it before it could tumble from his hands and helping him regain his balance.
"What's the rush?" he asked as he fell in step beside her.
"I'm late," she said.
"Late?" Matt said, confused. "It's not even half past ten. Aren't you on graveyard tonight?"
"Yes," she answered, sounding annoyed, as they entered the squad room, "but I wanted to get in here a couple hours early and get last night's unfinished paperwork taken care of before shift started." She checked her watch and sighed. "I've lost fifteen minutes already."
Matt was about to reply when he looked up and saw Captain Chavez standing near their desks. Both detectives quieted as they approached.
"Angela Destine?" Chavez confirmed, jotting the name on the paper.
Elisa practically sprang forward to come up beside the Captain. Chavez looked up, startled, but caught herself before the receiver slipped from her grasp. "Hold on, Miss Destine," she said into the phone, "Detective Maza just got in."
Elisa took the phone quickly as Matt circled around to his desk and set the banker's box down, all the while giving his partner a curious look. Chavez stepped back, but, as Elisa noticed out of the corner of her eye, did not depart.
Elisa put the phone to her ear. "Angela?" she asked.
"Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Who?!?" Elisa grabbed up a pen from her desk and hurriedly started scribbling on the same piece of paper Chavez had begun writing on. The Captain looked over at Matt, who replied with a shrug. "Where are you?" Elisa asked. She scribbled down the reply. "We'll be there as soon as possible. Thanks, Angela. Goodbye."
Elisa hung up the phone quickly.
"What was that all about, Maza?" Captain Chavez asked. "Who was that?"
"A friend with a tip," she replied evasively. "Call up Tony Dracon's parole officer... it sounds like our boy's up to his old tricks again." She looked to Matt meaningfully. "Ready to roll, partner?"
Matt was already slipping into his trenchcoat. "Let's do it," he said as he followed her from the room.
Captain Chavez watched them go. "Angela Destine," she mouthed. "Now why does that name sound familiar?" She crossed her arms and thought for a moment, then shook her head as someone shouted her name from across the room, and went back to work.
* * * * *
Pier 24, 10:16 PM
Angela took the cellular phone from her ear and searched a moment for the right button to turn it off. Finding it, she jabbed it with her talon-tip, then folded the phone up and slipped it back into the little holster on her belt.
"Elisa and Matt are on their way," she announced.
"Very good, Angela-chan," Sata said, nodding.
Ariana listened patiently as the adults finished speaking, then piped up immediately. "Why can't we just swoop down like we did with those robbers last month?" she asked sweetly.
"Because there's only three..."
Nudnik stood up, putting his front paws on Angela's leg and chomping down on the dangling edge of her tunic.
"... four of us," she corrected herself, pushing the beast back down and wiping the slobber from her clothes, "and Dracon has about a dozen men down there. Besides, all we want to do is hold them here until Elisa can arrive and catch them red-handed."
"What color are their hands now?" Ariana asked, her eyes twinkling as a grin spread across her beak.
Angela tousled the younger female's hair. "You really take after your father sometimes, you know that?" she said.
Sata gave a wry smile. "I have told her the same thing many times myself," she commented.
"Mom!" Ariana cried in a "please don't embarrass me in front of the cool people" tone.
Angela hushed her as Sata spared another glance over the edge of the roof. "Now let us put aside the joking and get to work," she said, her hand on the hilt of her sword as she eyed Dracon again.
"Yes," Angela agreed. "Come on, Ariana. Now it's time to 'kick some tail.'"
Ariana smiled as she and Angela picked up Nudnik between them. A few seconds later, the rooftop was once more deserted as the small group of gargoyles glided silently over to the roof of the neighboring warehouse.
* * * * *
Atop the Ed Sullivan Theatre, 10:21 PM
Broadway moped along the edge of the rooftop, his wings drooping low around his shoulders.
"Come on, Broadway, you're starting to bring me down," Lexington cajoled.
"When you get a girlfriend, maybe you'll understand," Broadway muttered back, not even turning around.
Lexington frowned, while Brooklyn and Graeme whispered conspiratorially, watching as Broadway paced the perimeter of the roof. As he came around to the side where the brilliance of Times Square was behind him, Brooklyn elbowed Graeme in the side.
"Look, son," he said, loud enough that it got his big blue rookery brother to turn. "They say the lights are always bright on Broadway." The two beaked gargoyles grinned. Lexington grinned.
Finally, Broadway began to crack a smile, too.
"They say there's always magic in the air..." The low, chilling voice came from everywhere and nowhere. The four gargoyles moved together quickly, back to back, forming a tight circle.
"Who's there?" Brooklyn demanded, eyes faintly glowing.
"I don't recall saying 'Knock, knock,'" the voice replied back, "but if you must know..."
Four human-sized figures stepped from the shadows around the edge of the rooftop, three men and a woman.
"No way they were there a second ago," Lexington whispered. "I would've picked them up on thermal." Brooklyn nodded, surveying the newcomer nearest to him. He was a tall man, skinny, wearing a long dark leather jacket over dark clothes. The man stared back at Brooklyn, smiling slightly. His companions, emboldened, stepped a little closer, tightening the loose circle they had formed around the gargoyles.
"I said, who are you?" Brooklyn demanded icily, his eyes glowing.
The man's smile turned to a wicked sneer. His eyes flashed with electric light. "Don't look at me! I'm not your kind," he growled.
The female of the group, who had neared within ten feet of Broadway, cackled suddenly, making the big blue gargoyle jump. She smiled gleefully at his reaction, and took a step closer. "Whatzamatter, doughboy? You scared?" She brushed back her hair saucily, exposing the tip of her ear. It was pointed.
Broadway's eyes glowed. "Halflings!" he growled.
* * * * *
Pier 24, 10:25 PM
"OW! Watch it, Jo! These things are heavy."
Jo lifted the brim of her cap and scowled at her partner, then looked over her shoulder again. "Didn't you hear that, Roger?" she asked nervously.
"No," he replied impatiently. Jo craned her neck, listening intently nonetheless. Roger shook his head. "I should never have even told you who owned this place, or what that stupid symbol on the wall outside meant. You're too superstitious."
Jo shot him a glare even as she discreetly rubbed the rabbit's foot dangling from the keychain on her belt. "Don't start with me again, Roger," she warned.
"Whatever," he replied. "For the tenth time, this place is not guarded by spirits. Now help me with this stupid crate so we can get outta here." Jo complied, still keeping one nervous eye fixed over her shoulder. "We should've never quit that last gig," the man added, grunting as he hefted his end of the crate.
"We were fired, Roger," Jo retorted, jostling her side. "Sheesh, what is in these things, anyway?"
The question was answered as Roger suddenly dropped his end of the crate and jumped back. The wooden container hit the floor with a loud CRACK and several fancy-looking pulse rifles slid out onto the floor among the spilt packing material. Jo's eyes bugged out.
Roger's eyes went wide, too, but out of fear rather than amazement. Jo looked at him oddly, about to yell at him over his clumsiness, but his mouth moved mutely and he pointed behind her weakly. She had just begun to turn when a strong, almost unnatural feeling hand grabbed her by the collar of her coveralls and lifted her a good foot and a half off the floor.
Roger gulped as two pairs of glowing eyes burned brightly in the darkness behind Jo, one pair high, one low. From his perspective, his female partner seemed to be floating in midair, her legs flailing frantically but striking nothing.
"You were saying a moment ago?" an eerie, cold voice said from the darkness.
Roger regained his voice. "I do believe in spooks," he said rapidly as he turned to run. I do, I do, I do..." He froze as a... something stepped into his path and growled at him. The snarling, mustard-brown, hairless, doglike creature leapt at him. He spun about and it landed on his back, driving him to the cold cement floor and knocking the wind out of him.
There was a flurry of motion above him, and as he opened his mouth to yell out, a rag was stuffed between his teeth and his arms were jerked behind him. A second later, Jo flopped to the ground next to him, similarly trussed up. They looked at each other for a moment, exchanging bewildered glances.
"Nice moves, Ariana," a soft female voice said above them.
"Thanks, Aunt Angela," a younger sounding female voice replied brightly. Jo winced as the ropes binding her wrists were given one last tug, then both humans groaned through their makeshift gags as they were yanked back to their feet and spun around.
Finally they both got a good look at their attackers.
"Gah-gles??" Jo exclaimed beneath her gag, glaring at Angela. Roger only stared with wide eyes; a little girl and her dog had taken him down.
Ariana cocked her head. "Well, at least these two don't think we're demons."
Angela smiled. "Come on, Ari. Let's put them with the others."
Jo and Roger didn't even protest as they were led away.
* * * * *
Atop the Ed Sullivan Theatre, 10:32 PM
Brooklyn winced in sympathy as Lexington crashed into the low wall beside him.
"Dad! Uncle Lex!" Graeme rushed over, extending a hand to each of the adults.
"We're all right," Brooklyn said, groaning slightly as he accepted the help and got back to his feet.
"Speak for yourself," Lexington retorted, rubbing his head and stumbling dizzily as he righted himself. He blinked several times. "Great," he moaned, "I think that last blast fried my targeting system."
"These guys are as strong as us," Graeme said, stating the obvious.
"RRRRAHHH!" Broadway's frustrated roar drew their attention back to the battle. The big blue gargoyle was grappling with the female Halfling, their hands interlocked and their bodies poised in a classic test of strength. The other three Halflings were taking a short breather to watch with wicked smiles on their faces, cheering her on.
"C'mon, Rita! Take 'em down!" yelled the skinny Halfling in the long leather coat.
Rita gave a growl of her own - a weird, high-pitched, throaty sound - and her eyes glowed as she surged back against her gargoyle opponent, who towered over her by at least two feet.
"No way," Lexington said, astonished, as he watched the tiny woman overtop his massive rookery brother and begin to force Broadway to his knees.
"Yes way," Graeme muttered back, gaping at the same sight.
A growl rose in Brooklyn's throat. "What are we waiting for?" he asked as he dove back into the fray. Lexington and Graeme took the cue and charged as well.
The combined battle cries of the other gargoyles and shouts of her compatriots as they were tackled distracted Rita long enough for Broadway to rear back up and overcome her with his sheer size. She grunted and twisted free from the hold, staggering away before he could collapse on top of her.
"Round one to you," she snapped. "Notch one up for the Incredible Bulk." She gave that high pitched cackle of hers again and took up a defensive stance. Broadway growled again, eyes flashing white. "C'mon," she enticed, gesturing as she danced in place with fists raised.
Broadway lunged. Rita leapt up, dodging him, and remained hovering in the air as he charged beneath her. He stopped short of toppling off the roof and looked up, confused.
"Float like a butterfly," she said, shaking her head as she aimed a finger at the big gargoyle. A bolt of green energy shot from her hand, and propelled Broadway back over the low wall. "But sting like a bee," she added wickedly.
Graeme scrambled between Jake's legs, sending the Halfling toppling onto his head, and ran to the edge in time to see Broadway open his wings and slow himself just before landing in an open dumpster in the alley below.
"Gra-ooomf!" Rael slugged Brooklyn hard in the stomach, and Graeme turned just as Jake grabbed him by the scruff of his tunic and lifted him off the ground. Vince took hold of a dizzy Lexington's tail as Rael grabbed a winded Brooklyn in an armlock. "Let's take out the rest of the trash!" the Halfling leader suggested. With almost no effort, he spun around and flung Brooklyn toward the edge of the building. Vince and Jake followed suit.
Broadway had finally pulled himself up onto the edge of the dumpster when he heard a hollering and looked up. A second later, three dazed gargoyles landed in a heap on top of him, and the whole group tumbled back into the dumpster.
"Woohoo! Three points!" Rita cackled, laughing insanely as she watched from her perch in midair just above the rooftop ledge. The other Halflings joined her in midair, pleased smiles on their faces.
"And this is only the first quarter," Rael said coolly.
With feral smiles on their faces, the quartet of Halflings slowly skated down to the alleyway below.
* * * * *
Pier 24, 10:34 PM
Tony Dracon checked his watch. It had been more than a minute since the last pair of men had hurried by with a crate. He poked his head back through the hole in the wall. "Come on, fellas, let's see some hustle," he encouraged aloud to the quiet warehouse, clapping his hands like a football coach. The sound echoed back from the metal ceiling, sending an odd shiver up his back.
"What's the rush, Tony?" a female voice intoned from behind him. Dracon whirled, and to his credit, barely staggered at all when a pair of red glowing eyes greeted him from the darkness. Angela stepped out of the shadows, crossed her arms, and shook her head scoldingly.
"Now correct me if I'm wrong," she mused, "but I'm sure breaking, entering, and grand theft are violations of your parole."
Dracon gave a smug smile. "What, is Maza appointing you guys as her deputies now?" He looked her up and down. "Goliath's little girl, right?" He straightened his jacket, relaxing his posture a bit. "Tell your daddy I send my regards."
Angela flared her wings and hissed, and Dracon took a step back and held up his hands in front of him. "Whoa, I see you got his temper, too," he commented.
"Actually, she gets more of that from her mother."
Dracon spun around toward the source of the new, colder female voice. He blinked as a jade green gargoyle dressed in Japanese-style garb stepped into view, holding Glasses in one hand and Pal Joey in the other, both men tightly bound in neat wrappings of rope. Sata tossed the two sidekicks to the ground at Dracon's feet. "You should hire more competent help. They were barely a challenge."
"It was no fair, boss, they jumped us from behind!" Joey whined. He quieted when Glasses gave him a dirty stare.
Dracon took a step back, bumping into Angela. He spun around and she bared her fangs inches from his face, and he staggered back again, lost his footing, and landed on his rump between his two tied-up henchmen.
Angela winced in mock sympathy.
Dracon blinked several times and looked back and forth between Sata and Angela. "Wait-a-minute, you're her mother?" He gestured from Sata to Angela. "But I thought Goliath and Maza..."
Angela gave a musical laugh, Sata smirked, and Dracon scowled, more confused than ever.
"As much as I would be honored to call her so, Angela-chan is not my daughter," Sata said, still smirking. She thought for a moment. "I believe, to use human terms, she is my sister-in-law."
Angela looked a Sata for a moment, then turned her eyes back to Dracon. "Trust me. You wouldn't want to meet my mother," she said.
"Great," Tony grumped. "It's the Brady Bunch with wings."
Angela stifled a giggle. "Not your night, is it, Tony? It's a shame, too... Elisa was really hoping you'd stay out of trouble this time."
Dracon barely paid attention to her. He looked around expectantly, seeming confused. "Where are all those guys we hired?" he finally asked Glasses.
Sata interrupted before Glasses could answer. "They were poor fighters, but some of them were excellent runners," she said.
Angela shrugged. "Somehow they all got the idea that this warehouse was protected by demons," she stated innocently.
"None of them were faster than Nudnik, though," a new voice added from the shadows. Angela stepped aside as Ariana bounded into the light with the gargoyle beast in question at her side.
Dracon blinked again, staring at the girl. "What is this, a cruel joke?" he asked.
"No, this is my daughter," Sata replied proudly.
Ariana bowed politely, almost too cutely for Dracon's liking. He made a face. Ariana turned to her mother. "All the bad guys are tied up out front for when Aunt Elisa arrives," she said smartly as Nudnik sniffed at Dracon's shoe.
"Very good, Ari-chan," Sata praised.
Dracon crossed his arms angrily and scowled at his tied up henchman. "No more freelancers. Next time we hire union men," he griped.
"'Next time' is not going to be for a long time," Angela pronounced.
* * *
The dark-clothed figure standing on the rooftop several hundred yards away lowered his night vision binoculars and smiled.
"Stupid gargoyles," Ryu spat, turning to his small band of men. "They've done half our work for us already." He pulled his black mask down over his face. "But now we move in for the kill." He gave a few curt orders in Japanese, and the small crew of martial artists scattered, vanishing into the blackness.
* * * * *
Behind the Ed Sullivan Theatre, 10:37 PM
Lexington and Graeme both gave one last tug and pulled Broadway out of the dumpster. The three of them rolled to the ground in a heap. Brooklyn spun as the four Halflings alighted around them.
"Hmm, I've got an idea," Rael said, scratching his chin as he surveyed the trash-covered gargoyles. "How about you just surrender now and we'll dispatch you quick and painless-like." He grinned.
Brooklyn's eyes glowed. "How about if I ship you back to Madoc in little tiny pieces," he growled as the others scrambled to their feet.
"Dad!" Graeme gasped. Brooklyn held up a hand and quieted him
Rael's hair crackled with electric energy. He shrugged. "Have it your way, gargoyle."
The Halflings charged. The battle was on in earnest.
* * * * *
Pier 24, 10:39 PM
Angela looked at the remnants of Dracon's team with satisfaction. "I'll get Tony and the others over here, so that things will be easy to wrap up, and then we'll leave. Elisa should be arriving soon." As if in response, a siren began to wail in the distance.
"There is no time, Angela-chan," Sata replied. "Elisa will have brought assistance. If we do not wish to be spotted by the other police officers we must depart now."
Angela looked dismayed. "You're right, Sata. I suppose Tony and the others are safe where they are. We can call Elisa after we're away from here and make sure she knows where he is."
"A wise precaution. Now shall we?" Sata turned to Ariana and Nudnik. "Come, Ari-chan. It is time to return to the castle."
"Come on, Nuddie. I know where Graeme stashed a brand new bone!"
The gargoyle beast quivered excitedly as he waited for Ariana to carry him back to the castle and his reward.
* * *
"Blast it! Where did that kid learn to tie knots? The Naval Academy?" Glasses groused as he struggled against his bonds.
"Shut up, Glasses," Tony snapped as he struggled with his own ropes. "See if you can't wiggle a little closer. Maybe we'll have better luck if you try and untie my hands. If we can get one of us loose then maybe, just maybe, we can get out of this mess."
A shadow passed close by, black against the darkness.
"What was that?" Pal Joey asked nervously.
"What was what?" Tony growled. "Don't tell me you're so rattled that you're jumping at shadows, Joey."
"It's been a tough night," he returned, but the freckle-faced gangster continued to scan the blackness nervously.
In the distance a trio of sirens screamed loudly.
"Hurry up, Glasses!" Tony hissed. "Maza's brat, uh, step-brat - man, remind me to give her a hard time about all that after we get out of here - anyway, she must have called for back up."
"Almost got it!" Glasses struggled with the heavy cable, pausing to flex his cramping fingers before he began to work the knots once more.
"Uh, boss?" Pal Joey said quietly.
"What now, Joey?" Tony replied, as his wrists slipped free from the ropes. He bent to unknot his ankles before turning his attention to Glasses' restraints.
"We are not alone."
"Of course we're not alone, you idiot! The place is full of gargoyles and the cops are gonna be breathing down our necks any minute."
A gun barrel glittered in the dim light of the warehouse. "No boss, what I mean is DUCK!!" Joey threw himself against Tony and Glasses, rolling the pair behind a heavy crate. Gunfire roared through the warehouse as the Yakuza opened fire.
"It just gets better and better, don't it?" Tony growled as he freed Glasses and started in on Pal Joey. "Glasses, bust into one of those crates and see if you can't find something that's gonna help us out here!"
* * *
"Ryu-san!" a black garbed soldier hissed to his superior. "The police are on their way! We must leave now!"
Ryu cursed quietly and colorfully in Japanese. "Recall the kyodai. We have proved our point tonight."
"Hai, Ryu-san!" The shadow moved back into the darkness and after a moment, Ryu followed.
* * *
Angela moved to glide back down toward the docks, but Sata put an arm on her shoulder, steadying her. "There is no point in that, Angela-chan," the jade female said. "They are already gone."
Angela's eyes flared dimly. "The Yakuza again," she growled softly. "I knew we hadn't seen the last of them."
Nudnik whined, and Ariana scratched him behind the ears. "Here comes Aunt Elisa!" she said, pointing.
Sata nodded. "Then it is time for us to go. Come. Let us return to the castle."
The Japanese gargoyle led the way, leaping off the steel tower of the bridge and turning her wings toward the Eyrie Building. Ariana gathered up Nudnik and followed. Angela paused to take one more look down at the arriving armada of police cruisers, then spread her wings and did the same.
* * *
Elisa pulled her gun out of her shoulder holster and Matt echoed her action as they bolted out of the car. "Did you hear gunfire?" Matt muttered, scanning the warehouse and dock front.
Elisa shook her head, her attention already captured by several disconcerted thugs waiting gift-wrapped next to the warehouse. "Looks like all we have to do is some housekeeping."
"Oh, I do love taking out the trash," Matt quipped as he started directing patrolmen to escort the prisoners to the squad cars.
* * *
"Come on, Tony! Let's beat it already," Glasses hissed to his boss from shadows as they watched their hired help being escorted away.
"Not yet, Glasses. We've got one more little job to wrap up before we call it a night." He watched impatiently as Matt and Elisa waved away the last of the patrol cars, then climbed into the red Fairlane. "Come on, Maza," Tony griped. "Don't take all night."
The Fairlane cruised away, the partners inside laughing over some shared joke. Tony reached inside his pocket and pulled out the detonator. "Time to go, boys." He climbed into the van, thankful that the Yakuza had thoughtfully provided plain wood packing cases for their merchandise, and pressed the detonator switch.
There was a low rumble, and then the warehouse blossomed into a fireball.
"I guess this means we're not going back to The Four Seasons?" Glasses said wistfully, adjusting the rear view mirror to avoid the glare from the rising flames.
Tony shrugged. "I guess not. Oh well, I was getting tired of their room service anyway."
Dracon and his men drove quietly away as the first emergency response units began to arrive on the scene of the inferno.
* * * * *
Behind the Ed Sullivan Theatre, 10:42 PM
Brooklyn ducked to the ground and rolled away as Rael attempted to deliver a high spin kick.
"Good boy," Rael chided as he regained his balance and Brooklyn hopped to his feet. "You've got 'roll over' down pat. Now for our next stupid gargoyle trick, let's work on 'play dead.'" He threw himself on Brooklyn's back and attempted to wrap his arms around the gargoyle's neck.
Brooklyn threw him off using the leverage of his wings, and the fight went back to fists and feet.
Lexington and Graeme were back to back, with Vince and Jake charging from either side.
"Now!" Lexington yelled. Both he and Graeme ducked and fell to the side just as the two Halflings leapt into the air. Vince and Jake flailed their arms but couldn't stop their momentum. They collided and tumbled to the ground.
Lexington helped Graeme to his feet. "It's a little trick I picked up fighting the Steel Clan," he explained between breaths.
"C'mon, Butterball! You can't be tired already!" Rita taunted, dancing around Broadway at a dizzying pace. She darted in and slapped him upside the head with the back of her palm, then ducked back away before he could turn. "C'mon!" she called again angrily. "Gimme a challenge here! I've seen glaciers that can move faster!"
The frustration shown in the blue gargoyle's glowing eyes as he whipped his tail around, trying to knock the Halfling's feet from under her. She leapt over it easily. "Stupid gargoyle, I wanna fight, not play jump rope!" she mocked.
Broadway let loose a roar that shook the windows of the surrounding buildings. "Bite me!" he growled.
The Unseelie shrugged. "If you insist." She lunged and the pair grappled as the Halfling went for the portly gargoyle's neck.
They rolled together on the pavement for a moment like a pair of professional wrestlers. Rita gave a feral grin as they finally came to rest, with her sitting astride the huge gargoyle, holding him down. "I just wanna give ya a little kiss," she hissed, lowering her head.
"Ow!!!" Broadway cried in pain as the pointy-eared woman sunk her teeth into his neck. Eyes glowing, he kicked her off roughly. She landed about ten feet away, hard, on her backside, but the impact barely knocked the wind from her. She was back on her feet in a matter of seconds.
"How rude!" she griped. She wiped at her mouth, smiling as blood came away on her hand.
Broadway had pulled himself back to his feet, as well, pressing his hand against the stinging wound on his neck, which felt like a hot dagger piercing his throat. He glared at the Halfling as he pulled his hand away and examined it, and his eyes glowed hot and white as he saw the blood.
Rita laughed. "I hope you can explain that hickie to your girlfriend... if you got one, ya fat cow!"
Broadway growled and lunged at her this time. Again, they went to the ground in a heap, clawing and kicking at each other.
Brooklyn landed a sold punch on Rael's forehead, dazing him, then grabbed him by the lapels of his leather jacket and tossed him into Jake and Vince as they tried to stagger back to their feet.
Graeme cheered for his dad as the three Halflings went down in a tangle of arms and legs.
"Get off of him!" Lexington yelled, jumping onto Rita's back and wrapping his wing membranes around her as she pinned Broadway again and prepared to take another bite.
"Wait your turn!" Rita growled, struggling to free her arms from Lexington's cocoon-like grip.
"Why do you always get the girls?" Lexington asked his brother wryly as he tightened his hold on the wriggling Halfling, allowing Broadway to slip out from under her.
"You can have her if you want her," Broadway growled, glaring at Rita again.
Rita's eyes flashed yellow. A second later the glow enveloped her whole body, and Lexington cried out in pain and released her. An invisible force threw the small gargoyle backwards, and had Brooklyn and Graeme not been there to catch him, he would've been tossed right into the wall.
"I'm not that kinda girl," she hissed menacingly, electricity sparking in her hair.
"Could've fooled me," Broadway huffed, eyes still hot.
Brooklyn and Graeme helped Lexington back to his feet.
"Are you OK, Uncle Lex?" Graeme asked.
Lexington rubbed his head and examined the systems status check flashing in his field of vision. "I'm fine," he said.
"You looked kinda shocked for a moment there," Brooklyn quipped.
Lexington shot him a look. "We gotta help Broadway," he said.
"Uh, dad," Graeme interrupted, pointing behind them.
The three turned as one to see Rael, Jake, and Vince back on their feet, or rather, off their feet, hovering a good three feet off the ground, an eerie, yellow-orange glow surrounding each of them.
"Come on! You wanna piece of me?" Broadway snarled, fists raised like a boxer.
Rita cackled maniacally. "I already had one," she said, licking her lips. "Are you offering me another?"
"This doesn't look good," Brooklyn commented dryly as the three Halflings towered over them.
"We were just warming up before, right boys?" Rael asked his companions. The other two nodded in gleeful agreement. Rael flicked his wrist, and a small glowing sphere of energy appeared in his hand. "Anyone up for baseball?" he asked wickedly. His eyes panned down to Graeme. "How about some little league?"
Brooklyn dove in front of his son as Rael wound up. The energy ball struck him in the chest, exploding and arcing across his armored breastplate and sending him sprawling.
"Dad!" Graeme cried, running to the downed gargoyle's side.
"You're OUT!" Vince yelled, imitating the moves of an umpire in midair. Jake snickered at the display.
"Batter up, junior," Rael sneered, conjuring up another energy ball.
A flying garbage can lid nearly took Rael's head off; he ducked just in time. His concentration lost, the energy ball faded into nothingness.
"Why don't you pick on someone your own size," Lexington growled as Brooklyn regained his feet with his son's help.
Rael drifted closer to the ground, balling his hands into fists. "Time for nighttime's flyers to feel their pains. Let's finish these freaks!" he ordered.
Brooklyn's eyes glowed white as he scooped up a bent, rusty piece of pipe from the ground and took a defensive posture. "Look who's calling who a freak."
Rita darted away from another well-aimed claw slash, though her feet never moved. She hovered about six inches from the ground, arms folded across her chest. She yawned in a bored manner, making an exaggerated gesture with her hand in front of her mouth.
"Is it my turn yet?" she asked.
Broadway growled and swung again. Rita easily dodged him again. He spun and growled. "Stay in one place, you lousy..."
"Now let's play ball," Brooklyn barked, wielding the length of pipe like a bat as the Halflings circled around him and the others. Rael, Jake, and Vince grinned smugly, still hovering in midair.
"What're you gonna do? Break our pinky toes?" Vince said mockingly, staring down at the angry gargoyle.
Brooklyn only returned a grin of his own, then swung the pipe hard... right into the side of a nearby dumpster. The metallic BANG echoed through the alleyway.
Rita shrieked in agony and lifted her hands instinctively to block out the ringing sound that made her head throb as if it was going to explode. The painful distraction allowed Broadway more than enough time to connect with a full-body tackle, and she gasped as the air was driven from her lungs.
Rita crumbled in a heap against the wall, still gripping her ears in pain as another BANG rang out. Broadway backed away from her, catching his breath. She stared up at the huge gargoyle, cowering in near terror now.
A hand grabbed her wrist and pulled her to her feet. "C'mon, Rita, we're outta here!" Rael hissed at her. She struggled to keep up as he pulled her along, stumbling over her own feet and wincing again as a third BANG filled the air.
Brooklyn threw the cast iron pipe to the ground with a satisfied nod. "And don't come back!" he called after the quartet of Halflings as they receded into the darkness, knowing they couldn't hear him.
Graeme looked at his father proudly. "Wow, Dad, that was a grand slam!" he said, beaming.
"Lay off the baseball jokes, will you son?" Brooklyn replied, rubbing under his armor at his aching chest. "I think I've had enough for one night."
Broadway stood, panting heavily, near the wall. Lexington approached him hesitantly. "Are you ok, Broadway?" he asked.
Broadway shook his head to regain his senses. As the adrenaline rush faded, a throbbing pain returned to his neck again. "Yeah," he mumbled. "Ow!" He grabbed his neck and held his hand over the bite. "Stupid Halfling."
"Let me see," Lexington said, concerned. He slowly removed his rookery brother's hand until he could see the two deep punctures on his neck. "Eww," he commented. "She really got you good."
"Like I didn't know that already," Broadway snapped back.
"Hey guys," Brooklyn interrupted, stepping between them with Graeme tucked under one wing. "You hear that?"
Lexington and Broadway quieted down and listened to the sound of sirens.
"That's our exit cue. Let's go," Brooklyn ordered.
A blue and white patrol car stopped near the curb, its flashing lights dancing over the brick faces of the nearby buildings. A few seconds later, a flashlight shone down the empty alleyway.
Officer O'Malley lifted up the brim of his cap and scratched his head. "Nothing," he said, panning the beam of light across the trash littered pavement. "Looks like we just missed them."
Officer Morgan nodded, and glanced up at the sky. Four winged shapes passed before the crescent moon, then were gone. "Whoever they were," he said.
* * *
Rita twisted a finger in her pointed ear, trying to stop the ringing which still filled her head. She pulled it out and inspected her nails, expecting blood. She sighed in relief at finding none and flicked the bit of wax from under her sharp fingernail.
"What the heck happened back there?" Vince demanded, still pounding on the side of his head as if trying to expel water from his ears. "I feel like I just had front row seats for a nuclear explosion!"
"I think my eardrum burst," Jake complained. He turned the side of his head toward Rael. "Is it bleeding? I can't see."
Rael grabbed the tip of the pointed ear and twisted it painfully. "If it isn't, it will be in a moment!" he yelled angrily, kicking at him. Jake howled and wriggled out of Rael's grip, scurrying away behind Vince.
"Quit your whining, Jake," Rita said. "You ain't any worse off than the rest of us."
"We were supposed to be invincible!" Rael yelled, grabbing her roughly and shoving her ahead.
"Hey! Take it up with Mouse, not me!" she yelled back as she recovered her balance and spun to face him. "Unless you feel like getting what that fat pig of a gargoyle got tonight, too." She grinned in the lamplight, running her tongue over her new fangs.
Vince, Jake, and Rael all stared in silent wonderment. Finally, Jake dared to ask, "Where did you get those?"
"I dunno," she replied after considering the question for a moment. "But I think I like 'em."
The three men chuckled. Then Rita joined in, and within a few seconds the chuckles had turned into uproarious laughter. "I can't wait to pay a little homecoming visit to Big Mickey and give him a little kiss," she added as the laughing died down.
Rael put his arm around her, and smiled when she didn't shrug it off. "There'll be time for that later," he said as they started walking again. They turned at a stairwell and started back down into the subway. "So tell me," he asked, "what does gargoyle taste like?"
Rita thought for a moment. "Tastes like chicken," she replied.
Their laughter followed them down into the darkness.
* * * * *
Castle Wyvern, 11:51 PM
Sata, Angela, and Ariana landed in the courtyard, the young brick-red female gratefully depositing her payload of one gargoyle beast on the flagstones.
"Good boy, Nuddie! Way to take a bite out of crime," Ariana praised, patting him on the head as he snuffled around at the three females' feet.
Sata caped her wings elegantly. "You all fought well tonight," she praised, nodding satisfactorily. "Even Nudnik," the jade female added, glancing down at the young gargoyle beast. Angela caped her wings, as well, and lifted her tail out of the way as Nudnik pushed behind her, nose seemingly glued to the pavement.
"Watcha got, Nuddie? Not another yucky snail, I hope," Ariana said, scampering off after her pet. The young gargoyle beast led her on a wandering path around the courtyard.
Sata smiled, then turned to Angela, laying a taloned hand on the younger female's shoulder. "You are a most capable and resourceful warrior, Angela-chan. You truly fought well tonight. I meant what I said earlier - I am proud and honored to have you as a rookery sister, and as a role model for my children."
Angela's smile was broad as she gave a respectful bow. "Domo arigato, Sata." Unfortunately, the moment was short lived. "Hey!" Angela cried, dancing out of the way as Nudnik nosed between her legs, his pursuit of whatever scent he had found threatening to knock her feet from under her.
"Nudnik! Come here!" Ariana scowled as her pet ignored her and ran over to grab him. She was within a foot when he lifted his head and howled forlornly, and looked up at the sky. The three females looked up to see the quartet of males approaching. Nudnik continued whimpering as they landed, his tone high-pitched and distressed.
Graeme ran over to join Ariana in trying to quiet him as the group set down, and Sata moved to greet her mate, but Angela's attention was immediately drawn to Broadway, who was wincing and holding his head at an odd angle.
"Broadway?" Angela asked, rushing up to her mate, a touch of concern in her voice. "Are you all right?" He tried to cover the wound with his hand before she could see, but she grabbed his wrist and stopped him. She looked at the bite mark and gasped. "Broadway, what happened?" she demanded, alarmed.
"It's nothing," Broadway said, ducking away. "Some stupid human bit me, that's all."
"You mean a Halfling tried to go Dracula on you," Lexington corrected, earning a "thanks for helping" glare from his much larger blue-green rookery brother.
"A Halfling?" Angela asked, startled. She tightened her grip on her intended's arm and pulled him back to where she could again examine the injury. Broadway winced again as she made him tilt his head to the side, and she grimaced as well. By now, the others had gathered around, too, though Sata was doing her best to keep her children on the fringes of the circle.
"It looks more like a snake bite than a human one, actually," Brooklyn commented.
"It's still bleeding!" Angela said. Her hands were trembling as she reached to touch it, her fingers stopping inches from his skin. "Oh, Broadway... I should have been with you," she said, her voice quavering. "If I'd only been there - "
"It happened too quickly, Angela," said Lexington. "She bit him before we even knew what happened! I don't think that any of us could have stopped it."
"But I could have done something," the young female gargoyle protested. "What's the use of my learning magic if I can't even use it to protect my own clan?"
"It's just a little scratch, Angela," Broadway said in a comforting tone, "it's not like she took a chunk out of my ear or anything." Angela didn't smile. "The sun will heal it," he said confidently. "Tomorrow, there won't even be a scar." He took her hand reassuringly in his own. "I'll be all right, Angela."
"Are you sure?" Angela asked, her eyes moist now.
Broadway nodded, but Angela still didn't appear convinced.
"He'll be fine, Angela," Brooklyn said, starting the group moving toward the doors that led inside. "A little stone sleep and he'll be good as new."
* * * * *
Friday, June 19, 1998 - Central Park, 12:05 AM
The darkly dressed figure stepped back to inspect his work, shaking his spray can slowly. The dark outline of Belvedere Castle loomed above, backlit by the moon.
"It's a bit lopsided, don't ye think, lad?" a gruff voice asked from over his shoulder.
He spun, coming face to face with a bearded, wrinkled face with one glowing eye. He jumped back in shock, slamming his back right into the wet paint covering the stone wall. Near the ground, a pair of glowing eyes emerged from the bushes. A hairless, blue dog the size of a bear growled menacingly at him just before his eyes rolled back and he slumped to the ground.
Hudson took a step forward and, with one hand, lifted the skinny human from the ground by the collar of his jacket. He examined the unconscious man's round ears closely for a moment.
"Och," he said, disgustedly. "I dinnae think he was one of them." He released his grip and let the man slump back against the wall under the now-smeared seven-pointed star. Bronx nosed the slumbering graffiti artist, then barked his agreement with Hudson's assessment.
* * * * *
Castle Wyvern, 12:28 AM
Broadway gritted his teeth as Owen dabbed the two puncture marks on his neck with an iodine-soaked cotton ball. Angela, standing beside her intended and still holding his hand, couldn't help but wince in sympathy herself.
Brooklyn stood in the doorway, having already sent Sata and the kids on to the kitchen for supper. Lexington crouched beside him.
"He's gonna be fine, right Owen?" the smaller gargoyle asked. Angela's eyes echoed Lexington's question as she looked at the tall blond man.
"I'm a majordomo, not a doctor," Owen replied flatly as he finished cleaning the bite and returned to the first aid kit for a bandage, "but I think he will live to sunrise." The level sarcasm in his tone was not missed by Brooklyn, who grinned slightly, or by his patient.
"See, I told you so, Angela," Broadway said as Owen applied the gauze pad. "I'm gonna be fine." He turned to face her fully after Owen had finished, taking her hands in his own.
Angela looked at him for a moment and finally smiled slightly. "I just worry about you."
"I know, Angela."
Brooklyn and Lexington exchanged a knowing look as Owen stepped past them through the door.
"I'm going to go find Xanatos," Lexington commented.
"And I'm gonna see what my kids have conjured up for dinner tonight," Brooklyn said.
Their excuses to each other made, the two rookery brothers turned and departed, leaving Broadway and Angela alone.
* * * * *
23rd Precinct House, 2:13 AM
"Och, there ye be, lad. I've been looking all over the place for ye." Hudson set Bronx down and moved toward the still, silent figure who stood by the low parapet wall surrounding the rebuilt clocktower. The blue gargoyle beast sniffed the new concrete curiously, then pawed at it, leaving light scratches in the smooth, troweled surface.
Goliath didn't look over; he continued to stare across the city, gazing at the Eyrie Building and the castle perched atop it.
Hudson moved near the wall beside Goliath and paused, examining one of the three statues perched upon it. "Och, now what are these supposed to be, then?" he asked, tapping the concrete head of the nearest one with his talon." Goliath didn't answer, and he eyed the statue critically. "Hmph. Some fine gargoyle this be, if it be a gargoyle at all. It dinnae have any legs." Bronx looked up and barked in agreement, and then went back to his sniffing. Hudson looked over at Goliath, expecting some reaction but finding none.
"Not in the mood fer conversation this morning, I see," he commented, caping his wings against the wind.
"Morning?" Goliath questioned, turning at last. He glanced up at the clock face rising above them. The minute hand slipped down to quarter past the hour. "I did not realize I had been here that long," he continued. "I am sorry... I should've returned to rejoin you in the park."
"Och, dinnae worry about it, lad," the old warrior replied. "Bronx and I had a grand old time by ourselves. Isn't that right, boy?"
Bronx looked up and gave a short bark, then returned to sniffing about the base of the "VI" on the clockface, looking for the door he knew should have been there.
Goliath and Hudson both watched him, the same look in their eyes. The thin, wavy glass and wrought iron detailing was gone. In its place was with heavy, tinted safety glass in a clean, freshly painted steel framework. The Roman numerals making up the clockface, similarly, had been replaced with aluminum duplicates, and these were fastened to the outside of the metal framing, rather than being an integral part of it as the originals had been.
"This place has changed," Goliath commented, turning away as Bronx gave up his search for the door and sat down on the concrete, whimpering.
"Aye, that it has," Hudson agreed. He slapped his hand against his thigh, and Bronx bounded over for an ear scratching. "But then, everything changes, lad."
Goliath nodded, gazing again over the city. Between the clocktower and the Eyrie Building, the steel skeleton of a new highrise had risen from the surrounding cityscape to claim a piece of the skyline. A crane perched upon its top promised it would soon grow higher, another monolith symbol of progress cast in concrete and steel. Yet the Eyrie Building still dominated the horizon, with Castle Wyvern as its crown. Goliath stared at it, fixated. The castle, a structure juxtaposed in place and time, but their home once again.
"Some things have changed for the better," he said at length, "but others have..." he trailed off, searching for the words, "become more complicated," he said at last.
Hudson smiled. "Aye. Like with Brooklyn and his family... but 'tis good to hear the laughter of hatchlings again."
"Yes," Goliath said edgily. "That is true... but that is not what I really..."
"And soon there'll be a rookery again, too," Hudson continued wistfully. "The first egg for our clan in a thousand years will be your daughter's."
Goliath's brow ridges went up at that, and an odd look crossed his face for a moment. "Yes, I suppose you are right," he said at length. "But what I meant to say was..." he floundered for the words.
Hudson nodded his understanding anyway. "Lad, the two of ye had a fight. It happens to every couple now and then. 'Tis not like you two have nae had disagreements before."
The big gargoyle gave a growling sigh. "Elisa and I have had disagreements before... but this one was not the others. She has questioned a decision I made as the leader of this clan... and now I can not help but wonder if she is right. Maybe it was wrong to risk so much to restore Demona her memories."
Hudson nodded thoughtfully. "So did ye apologize to her, lad?" he asked a moment later.
Goliath's head rose up. "Apologize?"
The elder gargoyle sighed, running a hand over his face. "Och, lad, ye mean ye didn't make amends with the lass?"
Goliath turned to his mentor again, a determined look set on his face. "She said she would come by the castle before sunrise... I will... apologize to her then."
Hudson gave a small smile. "Then perhaps we best be getting home."
Goliath took one more look at the concrete, glass, and steel around him. "Yes, old friend," he replied simply, "I think you are right."
* * *
Matt Bluestone glanced up as he climbed out of his partner's Fairlane, and did a double take.
"What?" Elisa asked, craning her head up, too, as she came around the front of the car. A pair of winged shapes soared away from the clocktower, a third form slung between them. Elisa's brow furrowed.
"Think they're checking up on you?" Matt asked.
Elisa's brow furrowed deeper.
"What's up, detectives?" The amicable voice of Jerry Pearson chimed in, and the reporter joined them in looking skyward just as the gargoyle shapes vanished into the inky blackness of the night.
Matt rubbed his hand across the back of his neck as if he had been merely stretching. "Just the usual, Jerry."
"Yeah," Elisa agreed, shaking her head and brushing a hand over her hair. "Robbery, assault and battery. Same old song."
Jerry nodded, flipping to a clean page on his little notepad. "Anything good? Any more muggers with pointed ears?" He was smiling.
Elisa was not.
"Uh, we've got some paperwork to do," Matt said, guiding Elisa by the shoulder toward the steps. "Why don't you check with the desk sergeant?"
"I was just in there, but thanks anyway," the reporter called after them. He shook his head and tucked his untouched notepad back into his pocket, sparing one more quick glance skyward before heading off down the street.
* * * * *
Castle Wyvern, 2:48 AM
Bronx barked anxiously, clambering to be let down as Goliath and Hudson landed in the courtyard.
"Easy, boy. What's the big rush?" Hudson asked as Bronx scrambled away, sniffing the ground and then the air intently. He howled, then rushed toward the doors and pushed into the castle. Hudson and Goliath exchanged curious glances, then followed quickly after the blue beast.
* * *
Broadway trailed his fingers gently over Angela's brow ridges, and the lavender female made a contented noise and snuggled against him as they locked eyes. Taking his hands in hers, she leaned forward to deliver a kiss.
Just as their lips met, there was a noise in the hall beyond the door. They both looked up sharply as the library doors burst open. Bronx scrambled in, panting, and ran towards them, looking for a moment like he was going to leap up onto the sofa with them. Instead, he halted abruptly when he was just a few feet away and sat down, staring at Broadway intently.
Goliath and Hudson appeared in the door a few seconds later, and Angela and Broadway scooted to opposite ends of the couch as the clan leader and elder entered the room.
"Good morning, Father," Angela greeted. She brushed back a stray lock of hair self-consciously, tucking it behind her ear, and her hand darted impulsively to the Celtic hair ornament over her left temple, checking to make sure it was still secure.
"Good morning, daughter," Goliath returned levelly, surveying the two.
"What's gotten into Bronx?" Broadway asked quickly, getting up from the sofa. He held out his hand to pat the beast on the head, but Bronx ducked away and sniffed cautiously. Broadway backed off, his brow knotting in puzzlement.
"I dinnae know, lad," Hudson answered as Angela rose from the couch as well and took Broadway's arm.
Goliath frowned, then his eyes widened as he noticed the bandage on Broadway's neck. "Broadway," he asked, "how did you become injured?"
Broadway looked at him for a moment. "Oh, you mean this?" he asked, indicating the bandage. "It's nothing serious. We ran into some Halflings during patrol and one of them bit me."
"Halflings?" Goliath growled. "Where?"
"Near Times Square," Broadway said. "They came out of nowhere and attacked us... but we showed them." He ground his fist against his palm.
Angela gave a worried smile at her intended's bravado, which didn't go unnoticed by Goliath or Hudson.
"There was some other trouble tonight, too," Angela volunteered. "Tony Dracon and the Yakuza."
Goliath's eyes narrowed. "It seems this night was not as quiet as we thought," he said to Hudson.
"Aye," replied the elder. He turned back to Broadway and Angela "Perhaps ye and the others'd best tell us all about it," he said. "But could we do it over dinner." He looked at Goliath. "I dinnae know about you, but I am famished."
Goliath nodded. "That sounds like a good idea." The small group of gargoyles left the library to round up the rest of the clan, Bronx trailing after them.
* * * * *
23rd Precinct House, 3:31 AM
"Good work, Morgan. You, too, O'Malley." Captain Chavez closed the folder and handed it back to the former of the two uniformed officers. "Leave the report in my box when you finish it."
"Yes, Ma'am," O'Malley replied, but Chavez had already moved off.
"Bluestone, Maza," she said, leaning over and planting her hands on their adjoining desks.
"Yes, Captain?" they chorused as they lowered folders and looked up.
"I need you both to pull a double shift tomorrow night," she announced, not explaining more.
"Sure thing," Matt replied automatically, earning a glare from Elisa that did not go unnoticed by the Captain. Chavez looked at Elisa hard.
"What about you, Maza?" she asked. "You're not planning any long trips again, are you?"
Elisa groaned inside. "No," she answered. "I'll be here."
* * * * *
Castle Wyvern, 4:06 AM
"And then we came back here," Angela concluded as she deposited the last of the glasses and silverware into the dishwasher. She looked to Sata. "Did I forget anything?"
Sata thought for a moment. "No, Angela-chan. That was an excellent summary." The two females looked to the clan leader, awaiting his response.
Goliath frowned. "I see," he said at length. "It seems we will have to keep a closer eye on Tony Dracon and the Yakuza. I think it would be wise to contact our allies in the Labyrinth, and enlist their aid."
Sata nodded. "We have already spoken to Sharon."
"She sounded a bit surprised to hear that we ran into some of Tommy Kimura's foot soldiers," Angela added. "She said he's been lying low ever since the trial."
"I wonder if Dracon realizes the size of the hornet's nest he's stirred up," Brooklyn commented, speaking up at last as he turned off the tap and dried his hands on a towel. "The turf war he had with Brod was bad enough."
Sata nodded her head. "I think Dracon knew exactly what he was doing. He wasn't there to steal weapons. He was there to send a message to the Yakuza."
"If so, he sure picked a bad time to stir up more trouble," Angela said.
"Agreed," Goliath replied.
"Yeah, I guess no one told him he had to take a number and get in line behind Madoc," Brooklyn quipped.
Sata looked at him oddly for a moment. "We will just have to remain vigilant," she said simply, "and deal with each threat as it presents itself, whether it comes from Dracon, the Yakuza, or the Unseelie Court."
* * * * *
23rd Precinct House, 5:19 AM
Elisa brushed her hair back from her eyes and deposited another bulging folder atop the foot-high stack in her "out" box. She gave a small smile, noticing that the stack heading "out" was finally taller than the stack in the adjacent "in" box.
Matt returned with two fresh cups of coffee and set one of them down in front of his partner. "Congratulations," he said. "Now all we've got left is the reports on the call we took tonight." He flopped back into his own chair, surveying the papers blanketing his own desk.
"Don't remind me," Elisa said. She picked up her mug and took a long sip, leaning back in her chair for a few seconds of relaxation.
"I'm almost glad we didn't catch Dracon," Matt added as he sorted through the blank forms. Elisa sat up and looked at him. "We'd have twice as much paperwork to do," he explained.
Elisa nodded and smiled, then took another sip and leaned back again. Her eyes drifted up to the clock.
"Oh, man!" she exclaimed, sitting up abruptly again. She set the coffee cup on the desk roughly, and a bit of the dark liquid splashed over the rim and spilled onto the blotter. Elisa didn't notice; she was already up and at the window.
She gazed out at the reddening horizon, and slapped her fist angrily on the sill.
"Elisa?" Matt questioned as he came up beside her.
"I told Goliath I'd come by the castle before sunrise," she said softly, still staring through the glass.
"You talked to him tonight?" Matt sounded surprised.
"He came by my apartment before I left to come in," she admitted.
Matt was quiet for a moment. "Why don't you call him?" he suggested, looking out the window over her shoulder. "Looks like you've still got a few minutes."
Elisa said nothing, but turned and headed back to her desk. Moving aside the papers, she reached for her phone.
* * * * *
Castle Wyvern, 5:21 AM
Goliath stared moodily over the city as the sky began to redden in the east. On the parapets below the tower, the rest of the clan took their perches, Angela holding Broadway's hand as he climbed up beside her despite his continued protests that he was perfectly fine. Goliath started to climb up on his perch when he heard someone ascending the steps behind him.
"Elisa?" he asked hopefully as he turned. His expression sank in disappointment when Owen appeared from the stairwell.
"Good morning to you, as well, Goliath," the blond man said crisply. He held out his open cellular phone to the big gargoyle. "You have a phone call from Detective Maza."
Goliath took the tiny device quickly yet gingerly. "Hello? Elisa?" he asked.
"Hey there, big guy. I got tied up at work," Elisa's voice responded tiredly. "I'm sorry I couldn't make it over like I promised. Matt and I got bogged down in paperwork and..." She gave a weary sigh. "I really had wanted to stop by. I'd come over tonight if I could, but I just found out I have to work the evening shift and..."
"It is all right, Elisa," Goliath interrupted. "You do not need to apologize." He paused, looking up at Owen, who was watching dispassionately. "It is I who should be doing the apologizing, to you," he said finally.
For a moment, there was only silence from the other end of the line. The sky behind Goliath began to brighten more with the imminent sunrise.
"Elisa?" he asked.
"I'm here," she responded quietly. "Look, I've got to pull a double shift tomorrow night, but I've got the next night off. I'll come over and we can find someplace quiet and talk, okay?"
"Yes, Elisa," Goliath replied as he climbed up onto his perch, still holding the phone. "I would like that."
"I'll see you then, Goliath," she replied.
The sun broke over the horizon, and a crackling sound as he turned to stone was his reply. Owen deftly snatched his cellular phone back before it could be frozen in Goliath's stone hand for the entire day. He lifted it to his own ear just in time to hear the click as Elisa hung up.
Slipping the phone back into his pocket, Owen Burnett turned and headed back down the tower stairs.
* * * * *
Destine Manor, 6:01 AM
A steady, distant beeping tugged at the back of Demona's consciousness, rousing her from her slumber. She raised her head up, her neck aching from using an open book as a pillow for the third time in as many nights. She pushed herself to her feet and staggered groggily down the hall to the bedroom. The unattended alarm clock assailed her ears as she entered. She climbed onto the untouched bed to give it a swat, bringing an end to its monotone droning.
Still sitting on the bed, she stretched wearily and yawned, trying to work out the painful crick in her neck and shoulders as she forced away the momentary urge to crawl under the covers and spend the whole day there. She looked down at her human hands and sighed. She had found it easier and easier as of late to simply sleep through her daily transformations... at least there was one thing good about being completely and totally exhausted all the time.
Yawning again, she stood up and headed for the bathroom.
* * * * *
23rd Precinct House, 7:47 AM
"You ready to go, Bluestone?"
Matt and Elisa both looked up. "Sara. Hi," Matt said, seeming a bit startled.
"'Hi'?" Detective Jasper asked, crossing her arms. "You didn't forget, did you?"
"No, of course not," Matt replied as he stood up. "We were going to... have breakfast?" he guessed.
Sara rolled her eyes and cast a glance at Elisa that made the other woman cover her mouth to hide a snicker. "Close enough, Bluestone," she said. "Come on, let's go."
Matt set down his pen and picked up his coat. "Guess I'll see you tonight, partner," he told Elisa as he moved past her desk.
Elisa turned back to her work, sighing lightly. "Have fun," she said flatly.
Sara stopped and looked at Elisa worriedly, and traded a glance with Matt. She turned back around. "Would you like to join us, Elisa?" she invited.
Elisa turned in her chair and looked up at the two of them. "No," she said after a moment. "I'm fine. You two go on."
Sara was about to say something more but Matt gave her a look that told her she should let it go. "Okay," she said. "Goodbye, Elisa."
Elisa didn't acknowledge their departure; she had already buried herself back in her work. Matt and Sara walked together out of the Bullpen.
"Only one thing can cause that degree of dedication to paperwork," Sara said softly once they were out of earshot.
Matt raised an eyebrow. "And what's that?" he asked, curious.
"Guy troubles," Sara answered.
"She and Goliath had a fight," Matt acknowledged as they continued down the hall.
"It must have been a big one," Sara replied. "Any idea what it was about?"
Matt shrugged as he opened the door and let Sara out onto the precinct's front steps. "No clue," he said as he followed her. "But I think she's finally got him ready to apologize. Score one more for female kind," he added wryly.
Sara smiled as they reached the sidewalk and Matt fell in beside her. "That makes the score what now, about six billion to zero?" She ducked away from a playful punch on the arm and turned the move into an artful hailing of a cab. A yellow vehicle pulled to the curb, and both detectives were chuckling as they climbed in.
* * * * *
23rd Precinct House, 8:13 AM
Captain Chavez turned out the light in her office and closed the door, and took one last look over the squad room before turning to go. She shook her head at the sight of a familiar form still hunched over her desk, her red jacket hanging on the back of her chair.
"Maza, go home," Chavez said lightly as she stepped up beside Elisa.
The dark-haired woman looked up, from her computer monitor, blinking bloodshot eyes. "Is that an order, Captain?" she asked, stifling a yawn.
"Yes, it is," Chavez replied, putting her hand on the back of Elisa's chair. "Go home and get some sleep. I need you at a hundred percent when you come back in tonight." She picked up Elisa's jacket off the back of the chair and handed it to her. Elisa looked at it reluctantly for a moment, then reached over and shut down her computer.
Captain Maria Chavez and Detective Elisa Maza walked out together.
* * * * *
WVRN Studios, 11:22 AM
Lennox Macduff checked his watch and stepped to the side as a teenaged intern hurried past with a flat cardboard box filled with plastic-wrapped sandwiches and cans of soda.
"Blast it," he muttered to himself. "Excuse me," he said aloud, stepping into the flow of foot traffic and blocking the way of the very next person who attempted to pass. An auburn-haired woman in a pale yellow jumpsuit stopped and looked up at him irritably, shifting the camera case she was lugging from her left hand to her right. "Would you by any chance know where Ms. St. John is?" he asked, mustering all the pleasantness he could.
The woman frowned. "No," she replied quickly. "Now if you'll excuse us -" She sidestepped and moved past him, her small entourage - a short, bespectacled woman in a frumpy sweater and skirt and a tall man with a sharply pointed nose - following close behind.
Lennox spun as they passed. "Thank you ever so much for your time," he called after them, sarcasm dripping from his words.
"Perfesser MacDonald?" a scratchy voice asked. Lennox turned, taking in the lanky stagehand in the oversized tie-dyed shirt who had just addressed him... the same young man who had told him to "wait right here, dude" over a half hour ago.
"For the fifth time, it's 'Macduff,' you blistering idiot!" he bellowed, drawing the attention of some of the nearby technicians. Lennox took a cleansing breath. "What is it?"
It seemed to take a moment from the words to travel from the young man's brain to his mouth. "Oh yeah, they've been, like, ready for you up in studio three for fifteen minutes... I've been paging you, dude -" Lennox glared at the boy as sudden insight replaced the glazed, blank look in his eyes. "Oops," he said, "sorry about that. I apologize profusely for my most heinous error."
Lennox sighed. "Just show me to the studio," he replied.
The young man nodded, his hair falling in front of his eyes. "Right this way, dude," he said, gesturing.
"And one other thing," Macduff added, his voice lowering, sending shivers down the teenage stagehand's back, "Stop calling me 'dude'."
* * *
"I hope we can get this over and done with quickly," Macduff groused as he slid into the armchair opposite that of the smartly dressed reporter, Nicole St. John. He looked about the small set, decorated to resemble a cozy living room on three sides, and open to the cameras on the fourth.
"Fifteen, twenty minutes max, Professor," Nicole assured him. She turned her attention back to the aide who was leaning over her, checking the microphone fastened to her lapel. "Is, um," she flicked her eyes to Macduff, "our other guest here yet?" she asked.
"Didn't Frank tell you? Her people called over an hour ago. I believe the exact response was 'go to-' "
"Nikki, we're ready," the producer hollered from across the studio, holding up his arm and tapping his watch with his finger. Nicole acknowledged him with a nod. "And remember, people, we're live today... no second takes," he added as the technicians and makeup artists scurried off the set.
Macduff's eyebrows raised up and he spun in his seat toward Nicole. "Live? You never mentioned anything about..."
The producer shouted out over the din. "And we're go in five... four..." The studio went quiet as he finished off the countdown on his fingers, then pointed at St. John to begin.
* * * * *
Nightstone Unlimited, 11:30 AM
Candice strolled past, arms full of freshly-bound reports, and stopped in her tracks as she passed Lydia's desk.
"Lydia, what do you think you're doing?" she asked incredulously, seeing the tiny portable television propped up next to the other secretary's computer monitor.
"Shh!" Lydia chastised, turning up the sound just a little. "I heard through the grapevine that they're gonna have one of the boss's ex-hubbies on today. This should be really juicy." She twiddled with the set's antenna, almost drooling.
"Good morning, I'm Nicole St. John, coming to you with a very special live edition of Eye to Eye," spoke the blonde-haired woman on the screen. "With me is Dr. Lennox Macduff, Professor of Medieval Studies at Columbia University. Good morning, Dr. Macduff. It's a pleasure to have you on the show today."
Lydia's eyes focussed in on the screen as the camera angle switched. "Ooh... that is one of the dragon lady's ex-husbands?" she questioned aloud.
"Good morning, Ms. St. John," the gray-bearded man on the screen said. "I'm glad to be here."
"Mmm... he sounds dreamy," Lydia purred, resting her chin on her hands.
Candice rolled her eyes and adjusted her grip on the stack of folders in her arms. "It's your funeral if Ms. Destine sees you with that... so don't say I didn't warn you," she said as she hurried away.
* * *
Dominique set aside her papers and rubbed her temples, sighing with frustration. She checked her watch, and her mood brightened a shade as she spun over to her computer and hurriedly booted up a program. "Come on," she muttered, urging the whirring processor on. Suddenly, the screen came to life, and Dominique adjusted the tone knob on her computer's speakers and clicked the mouse to enlarge her newly appeared TV window to full-screen size.
"...I'm glad to be here," an accented voice she would recognize anywhere was saying.
"Oh, I'll bet you are," she said, grinning smugly at the image of Macbeth on the screen. She reached across the desk, picking two pieces of paper off the top of the high stack of neglected paperwork filling her in-box. One was the invitation from Nicole St. John of WVRN, dated a week earlier, asking her to appear on Eye to Eye today to discuss "women in the business world." The other was a memo from her public relations head, received that morning and marked "URGENT," advising her that her ex-husband was scheduled to appear on the same program, supposedly to speak on "the relevance of Shakespeare in the modern age."
Dominique could only guess what topic Ms. St. John really had planned -- and she wanted no part of it. Still, she was interested in hearing what Macbeth might have to say... and besides, it'd be fun to watch him squirm. A broad smile crossed her face as she crumpled the letter and the memo together into a tight ball, then took aim and sent it sailing across the room. It hit the wall and rebounded into the wastepaper basket by the door as Ms. Destine returned to her TV watching.
* * * * *
Elisa's apartment, 11:35 AM
"Meow?" Cagney protested as Elisa tugged at the sheets he was curled upon. He held his ground resolutely, letting himself slide along the mattress until his mistress placed her hands on her hips and glared at him.
"C'mon, cat. It's my bed," she stated as he reached down and plucked him from the covers. She held him against her chest a moment, keeping him constrained with one arm as she finished pulling down the sheets, until he began kicking and twisting his body, indicating his desire to be put back down. When she didn't oblige, he curled his hind claws into the flannel of her nightshirt and pushed himself onto her shoulder.
"Hey!" she exclaimed, ducking down as the sharp, tiny points of his toenails penetrated the fabric and poked her skin. Cagney leapt off at her cry, alighting gracefully on the top of the dresser while sending the TV remote clattering to the floor.
The TV sprang to life obligatorily as the remote's batteries rolled across the carpet. Elisa brushed her still-damp hair out of her eyes and sighed deeply, turning to glare at her cat again. Cagney sat smugly on the dresser, his back to her, thoroughly engrossed now in licking his paw.
Elisa muttered incoherently to herself as she stooped down to recover the remote and its batteries. Resurfacing a moment later, she flopped down onto the edge of the bed and fumbled with the device, jamming the tiny batteries back into their place and forcing the lid closed again. Finally, she looked up at the television, remote poised to click it back off. Instead, she froze.
"Macbeth?" she said, seeing the image on the screen. She turned up the volume.
"...from Scotland originally, but I make my home in the States now," the voice said.
The camera switched to an attractive blonde in professional dress. Elisa involuntarily made a face. "Ugh. Who's the genius who gave her a talk show?" she asked aloud. Cagney had no answer, but joined her in staring intently at the bright screen from his perch on the dresser.
"You also lived in France for a while, too, am I correct?" Nicole asked sweetly.
Elisa made another face; she could see where this was heading. "I hope she doesn't go there..."
"Yes, I did," he replied non-committally.
Nicole nodded, then cut straight to the chase. "Tell me," she said, "how did you first come to meet Dominique Destine?"
"She went there," Elisa muttered, rolling her eyes.
Macbeth shifted in his chair. "It's a rather long story..."
Elisa gave a wry smile. "Now there's the understatement of the millenium." She yawned involuntarily, then realized once again that she was sitting on the edge of a very comfortable and very inviting looking bed.
With another yawn, she clicked off the TV and crawled fully onto the bed. She drew the covers up around her, and in less than a minute she was fast asleep.
* * * * *
Nightstone Unlimited, 11:41 AM
"Um, excuse me..."
Lydia looked up from the TV, startled, and took in the young woman who stood before her desk.
"I'm looking for Ms. Destine," the newcomer stated. "I'm Andrea Calhoun... a friend of hers," she added.
Lydia's face brightened. "Oh yeah, I've heard her talking about you," she said, twirling a lock of her long curly hair in her fingers.
Andrea blushed slightly. Lydia's eyes strayed back to her television. Andrea couldn't help but follow her gaze.
"What's that?" she asked, curious.
"Some new talk show." She turned the screen so Andrea could see it too. "Mmm... just look at him," she said, indicating the figure of Macbeth on the screen. "What a hunk... and that voice..." Lydia slipped off into her own little zone again.
Andrea watched for several seconds, then shrugged. "He's all right if you like that type," she replied. "She's a total airhead, though."
Lydia nodded, not really listening. After a few more seconds, Andrea moved off toward Candice's desk.
WVRN Studios, 11:44 AM
"And cut... we've got commercials. Ninety seconds, people!" the producer shouted. Nicole St. John's horde of makeup artists were back on the set and swarming over her within seconds.
"Just what the devil do you think you are doing?" Professor Macduff demanded without preamble. "I came here to talk about Shakespeare, not to share the intimate details of my personal life with the entire city!"
Nicole looked at him oddly. "I only give the public what they want to know." She shooed the makeup people away before adding, "Would you rather I ask about gargoyles instead? I imagine what you could say on that subject would be just as intriguing."
Macduff gave her a hard stare. "Madam, you have raised 'yellow journalism' to an artform," he said, rising from his chair. Without him giving even a second glance back, St. John heard him say "Good day" as he confidently strode out of the studio.
Nicole gaped, open-mouthed. "Dr. Macduff, wait... you can't just..."
The camera operators looked to Frank as the commercial break's final seconds ticked away. The producer shrugged back at them. "It's this or dead air," he said. "We're back in five, four, three..."
* * * * *
Nightstone Unlimited, 11:47 AM
"I said Good day!"
The sound of the tie-tack microphone bouncing on the floor reverberated through the television's speaker. The cameras captured only a short glimpse of movement as Macduff disappeared out the door.
The cameras returned to Nicole. She hesitated for just the briefest of moments, straightening back up in her chair and composing herself before continuing. "That was Professor Lennox Macduff of Columbia University... evidently there were some issues he still has yet to work out regarding his short-lived marriage to Dominique Destine. Well, we still have fifteen minutes left... let's take a caller."
"Hello, um, this is Lydia. I just wanted to ask... hey, where did he go?"
Dominique looked up from the research notes she had returned to during the commercial, her attention snapping back to the TV. Why did that caller's voice sound so familiar? Suddenly, recognition dawned. The red-haired executive shot up from her chair and stormed toward the door, papers scattering behind her.
* * *
The door to Ms. Destine's office flew open, sending a gust of air across the room that ruffled the papers spread across Candice's desk. Candice and the brown-haired young woman who had just approached to talk to her both looked up.
"Dominique!" Andrea Calhoun greeted, stepping towards her friend with a smile on her face.
Dominique halted, no more than two steps out the door, as the familiar voice called out her name. She caught a glimpse out of the corner of her eye of Lydia at the far side of the room, still talking on the telephone.
"Andrea! Hello," she returned, turning to her as the hint of a grin played on her features. She blinked in surprise, surveying the young woman's appearance and attire. Her hair had been cut and styled in a neat pageboy, and she wore a pale blue suit dress and matching heels. Small gold studs accented her ears, with a small crystal pendant being her only other piece of jewelry. "My," Dominique commented, "that's a new look for you... I like it," she added, nodding approvingly.
Andrea blushed slightly. "Well, you did give me the tips... and I thought since you said that we were going to go someplace nice today..." She fussed with the hem of her skirt a moment as Dominique returned a smile. Andrea looked back up. "Just don't expect me to make a habit of it," she added, mock-warningly.
Dominique gave a small chuckle. "Of course not," she replied. Her eyes darted over Andrea's shoulder to Lydia once more. The secretary had hung up the phone and was readying to depart for lunch, with Candice now approaching her.
"So are you ready?" Andrea questioned, bouncing eagerly on the balls of her feet.
Dominique's attention returned to her friend. "Just let me get my purse," she said. She retreated into her office, turning off the TV viewer on her computer without giving the program another thought. She gathered the papers back up from the floor, putting the pages back in order, and opened the desk drawer for her purse. She paused, staring at the mass of paper in her hand, and sighed. Shouldering her purse, she jammed the whole stack into the top of the shredder and went to join Andrea.
* * * * *
WVRN Studios, 11:59 AM
"Thank you for watching. For WVRN and Eye to Eye, I'm Nicole St. John."
"And we're clear," Frank said, giving the "cut" signal with his arm. "That's a wrap, people... good show." He patted a cameraman on the back as the technicians began clearing equipment from the room.
Nicole sat in her chair, drumming her fingers on the armrest.
"Another stellar impression made, I see, Nikki," Frank commented as he approached the set. "Maybe next time you won't lay on Macduff as much."
"Such a clever wit - you should write for the late show," she returned, then sighed. "I didn't really care about him anyway... it's Destine I wanted the chance to talk to. And I thought for sure that the info we leaked to her press agent about Macduff being here would've gotten her attention."
"From the phone call I got this morning from her secretary, I'd say it did that," Frank replied.
Nicole scowled. "I've tried every other way I can think of to get that woman to do an interview, but ever since the Tattler published that photo of her precious daughter, she's had her secretary running interference for her. But I was sure even she couldn't resist a chance to embarrass an ex-husband on live TV."
"Face it, Nikki," Frank said, chuckling. "It's a sad fact for us TV folks, but some people in this world still have good taste."
Nicole stared icily at him. "I'm not laughing, Frank. She marries this Macduff character just before sunset, and he files for the annulment by noon the next day. Her next husband allegedly goes missing, leaving her millions, yet we never see a photo of him to confirm that he even existed. Not to mention how she and her company appeared almost out of nowhere just around the same time? Or how after two years of turning down every charity you can name, she makes a personal appearance at a PIT meeting and cuts them a check for ten grand right on the spot? Or how she is never seen at night... or how her daughter is sighted just about as often as Halley's Comet? No-ho-ho, Frank... there's something weird going on with that woman... something hokey just like with Maddox. And I'm gonna find out what."
* * * * *
Somewhere near Times Square, 12:20 PM
"Blast." Macbeth looked out the window of the cab, at the motionless traffic, and then down at his watch again. "Blast, blast, blast!" he repeated, his voice growing louder with each successive utterance of the word. He stared at the slowly climbing digital numbers on the taxi meter and fumed. A moment later, he dug into his pocket with one hand and rapped on the plexiglass partition with the other.
The cabbie turned around, an annoyed scowl on his face. "Look, mac, the traffic ain't movin' any faster than it was the last six times youse asked."
"I'll walk from here," Macbeth stated, thrusting a twenty through the small opening. He was out the door and headed for the sidewalk before the disagreeable driver could even offer to make change. He looked back down the street and clenched his fists in frustration. The building that housed the WVRN studios was still within sight, and his destination was still over a dozen blocks away. Grumbling, he began walking a hurried pace, pressing his way through the crowd of other pedestrians.
* * * * *
Le Ciel Azure, 12:45 PM
"Would madam care for some more water?" the waiter asked haughtily, holding the crystal pitcher high as if it were a trophy he had just won.
Dr. Joanna Walker glared up at him. The breadstick she held in her hands snapped, sending tiny crumbs flying. "No," she said calmly. "And yes, I'm going to keep waiting," she added, heading off the question before he could ask it again.
"Very well, madam," he replied, moving off.
"Lennox Macduff, I'm gonna..." she mumbled to herself. The remaining halves of the breadstick disintegrated into a fine powder under her iron grip.
* * *
"...so I said, 'Of course I'll do the show.' I mean, it'd be totally stupid of me to pass up something like that, right?" Andrea picked up her water glass and took a sip, waiting for her friend's reply. "Dominique?"
The redheaded executive looked up from her chef's salad. "Hmm? Oh, yes, definitely," she said, nodding.
Andrea looked at her for a moment. "You didn't hear a word I just said, did you?" she asked, nearly laughing.
Dominique's eyes dropped. "Andrea, I'm sorry..."
"You are way too wound up today," the younger woman commented. "What's wrong?"
"What's wrong? Oh, I'm just worried that my daughter will be captured or killed by a bunch of evil fairies because her father won't send her back to the magical island she comes from, so I've started teaching her magic in the spare time I don't have."
"Oh, is that all?"
"Dominique? Hello?" Andrea waved her hand in front of her friend's face.
Dominique blinked, then blushed. "I'm sorry... I guess I'm just preoccupied with work. And I haven't been getting that much sleep lately," she added, grateful to be able to tell the truth about something.
"It sounds like you need a vacation," Andrea suggested.
"No time," Dominique replied. "I've too much going on right now... and I don't know how long it'll be before that changes." She poked her fork clumsily at a radish at the bottom of her salad bowl. "So tell me about this show you were talking about," she prompted.
Andrea swallowed what she was chewing and scooted her chair in a little closer. "The Steinberger Gallery is doing an exhibit of nothing but artwork dealing with gargoyles. Paintings, sculptures, everything - they're setting aside a whole wing -- no pun intended."
Dominique smiled anyway, and Andrea blushed slightly before continuing. "Anyway, they've got artists from all over the country contributing - Los Angeles, Dallas, Rochester, I think they even said something about someone from Oklahoma City. And I've been asked to display some of my work, too! Isn't that great?"
"That's wonderful!" Dominique agreed. "I'm very happy for you."
Andrea beamed. "I still don't know how they found out about me," she said. "That art fair last month was the first time I'd displayed any of my stuff outside of the little shows PIT runs every once in a while."
Dominique smiled. "All it takes is one person with an eye for good art."
Andrea nodded, blushing again. As Dominique took a sip from her water glass, Andrea absently fingered the crystal pendant she wore. The prismatic sparkling of the light off it caught Dominique's eye.
"That's an interesting necklace you have there," she commented, gesturing subtly to the pendant as she returned her glass to the table.
Andrea laughed. "Oh, this little thing?" She held the crystal up on its slender gold chain, letting it dangle and spin. "It's my lucky charm." She grinned, a bit embarrassed. "I got it last month, just before I met you. This teenage boy traded it to me for one of my gargoyle sketches. He said that as long as I kept it with me, it would bring me good fortune. It was my only 'sale' all day, but the next day, you came along." She smiled broadly.
Dominique returned the smile, nodding, but felt a growing uneasiness in her stomach. "Surely that was just a coincidence," she said half-heartedly.
Andrea shook her head vehemently. "That's what I thought at first," she said. "I never had went in for all that New Age mumbo-jumbo." She leaned forward, lowering her voice to near a whisper. "But I tell you, Dominique, I think it's really working. I've been sleeping better... feeling more energetic and more creative. And the day I got it back from the jeweler after having it put on this chain, I got the call about the art show." She sat back comfortably in her seat again. "It can't all be just coincidence."
Dominique nodded again, numbly. She stared at the pendant as it rested against Andrea's chest. It sparkled in the light once more, reflecting the rainbow for a split second. "I don't think I've ever seen a crystal quite like that before," Dominique commented.
"Really?" Andrea replied, picking it up in her fingers again. "I think it's just quartz... it's really nothing much."
Dominique leaned closer to inspect it. "May I?" she asked softly. Andrea nodded and allowed her friend to touch it, their fingers brushing as Dominique took it into her palm. The older woman's green eyes sparkled almost imperceptibly as the crystal touched her skin. She gave a small gasp and looked up, finding Andrea staring at her intently from less than a foot away. Dominique released the pendant and sat back in her chair again, reaching hurriedly for another sip of water.
"Dominique?" the younger woman questioned.
The older woman gulped down a mouthful of water, nearly sputtering. "It's a very lovely necklace," she replied finally, once she could again muster the air to speak.
Andrea looked at her friend worriedly. "Maybe you need a lucky charm of your own," she said after a moment.
Dominique pushed aside her unease and managed a small, ironic smile. "I make my own luck," she stated wryly.
The waiter arrived with the desert tray as Andrea replied with a soft chuckle.
* * *
"May I help you, Monsieur?" The maitre d' stepped behind his podium and greeted the tall, gray-bearded man who had just pushed past the half dozen others waiting in line just inside the doors.
"Macduff," the man replied quickly, his eyes darting over the crowded dining room. "I have a reservation."
"Oui, Monsieur," the tuxedoed man replied dully, running a finger down the list of names penned in the book in front of him. His finger stopped on a name, and he looked back up. "I'm terribly sorry, Monsieur," he replied, not sounding the least bit sorry. "Your reservation was for noon, and we are very busy today. Ze table has already been given to someone else."
"Never mind that," Macbeth replied, his eyes snapping back to the man, seemingly threatening to bore holes through him. "Have you seen the woman who was supposed to meet me here? Blonde, about this tall?" He gestured with his hand.
"Oui, Monsieur. She left just a few minutes ago. She seemed most upset..."
Macbeth didn't hear the rest. He was already back out the door.
* * * * *
Nightstone Unlimited, 1:12 PM
"I'll talk to you soon, Andrea," Dominique said as she stepped out of the limousine.
"Are you sure this is no trouble? I could just catch a cab," Andrea said, scooting over in the seat toward the open door.
"No, it's no trouble at all," Dominique replied over the noise of the traffic. "Gregory will take you back home - I don't need the car this afternoon anyway."
Andrea smiled. "Thanks! I'll call you later... if that's okay."
Dominique smiled back. "Of course." She checked her watch quickly. "Ugh, I have to run now or I'm going to be late. Goodbye, Andrea."
"Goodbye, and thanks for lunch," Andrea called after her friend as she hurried off toward the Nightstone Building. Sighing contentedly, the young woman sank back into the soft leather seat as the driver closed the door. With the sounds of traffic again shut out, the soothing tones of classical music coming through the car's speakers met her ears. She smoothed her jacket and skirt and then closed her eyes, listening. As the car pulled away from the curb, the fingers of her right hand came to rest on the pendant lying upon her chest.
* * *
"Ugh!" Lydia cried disgustedly. She clicked madly on her mouse for a moment, then returned to staring blankly at the gray checkerboard pattern on the monitor, moving the mouse around and clicking every few seconds. She didn't hear the elevator chime, or notice Dominique walk up behind her.
"I'm glad to see you're practicing," Ms. Destine said calmly. Lydia whirled in her chair and stared up in shock at the red-haired executive. "I hear there's always new openings in the field of undersea ordnance disposal."
Candice barely hid her grin as she approached her boss and her desperate-looking coworker. "Are you ready to go, Ms. Destine? We're going to be late if we don't leave soon," she interrupted.
"Why don't you go get your car and I'll meet you downstairs, Candice?" Dominique suggested, turning to her.
"Sure, Ms. Destine," she replied, trying hard not to laugh as Lydia gave her a "HELP ME!" look behind Dominique's back.
"I'll be there in a few minutes," Dominique said. She turned back to Lydia. "Just as soon as I straighten out a few things here."
Candice nodded and adjusted her purse on her shoulder. Lydia watched her enviously as she headed for the elevator.
"Now then, Lydia," Ms. Destine began again, "Let's see what we can do about finding something productive for you to do."
* * * * *
Columbia University, 3:19 PM
A light smattering of applause filled the auditorium as Preston Vogel retook the podium. "Thank you, Dr. Sato," he said flatly, as if reading from cue cards, although none were present. "And now, I'd like to present the Secretary and Treasurer from the Xanatos-Reynard Foundation to Aid the Homeless to give the introduction of today's final speaker. Ladies and gentleman, Mr. Owen Burnett."
Vogel departed the podium as a man nearly identical to him in appearance but for the color of his hair and his suit stepped into his place.
"Thank you, Mr. Vogel," Owen said crisply into the microphone. He paused a moment, then continued. "Today's final speaker is a graduate of…"
* * *
David Xanatos shifted in his third row seat and tried to remain attentive. The fingers of his left hand drummed softly on the armrest, while his right hand held his chin, the elbow propped on the other armrest. He flicked a quick glance to his right, at his wife. Fox had the little fold-out desktop built into the arm of the chair raised up and a yellow legal pad resting on it, in which she was jotting down notes as she had been the whole afternoon. He smiled at the quaint reminder that they were in an auditorium whose main use was as a college lecture hall, watching Fox for a moment. Then he winced as another cramp went up his leg, and shifted in the thinly padded seat again, making a mental note to make sure they found a more audience-friendly venue for the next Halcyon Renard Memorial Symposium, even if he had to build it himself.
* * *
"... Dr. Daniel Goldblum."
The applause caught David slightly off guard. He straightened in his seat immediately and added the clapping of his pair of hands to those of the rest of the room, as Dr. Goldblum walked up onto the stage and shook hands with Owen.
"Thank you, thank you," he said as he took the microphone, literally - becoming the first person all afternoon to remove the device from its stand and stroll about the stage with it. "If we could dim the lights, I'd like to start things off with a short film..."
* * *
Fox lay down her pen and flipped the pages on the legal pad back, comparing the little cartoon gargoyle she had doodled during Dr. Sato's presentation to the ones she had drawn the previous day during the latest Cyberbiotics board meeting. As the house lights went down, she sighed and gazed over at her husband.
* * *
Xanatos watched with mild interest as the film began. It was all old news to him - tales of cloning tadpoles and sheep that, while fascinating to most members of the audience, were nothing compared to what he already knew was possible. Maybe next year, he mused to himself, instead of Dr. Goldblum, he'd ask Fox to consider having the clones themselves as guest speakers. The sheer craziness of the thought put a sly grin on his face, and he turned to her ready to share it with her.
He wasn't expecting her to already be looking at him, staring at him intently with her blue eyes. It startled him, and he didn't speak... yet she read his quirky smile instantly and returned with one of her own.
* * *
Fox jumped just slightly as David suddenly turned and looked at her, but recovered flawlessly. She smiled, and moved in her seat, shifting to one side as she crossed her right leg over her left. The hem of her dark skirt, which came only midway down her thigh to begin with, slid a bit further up, and she pretended not to notice as a bit of the white lace of the top of her stocking came into view.
David noticed, and he gave a sly grin. As he looked back up at her, she winked at him, still smiling, and gave a small gesture with her finger. David couldn't help glancing down at her stockinged legs again as he leaned over.
Fox cupped her hand to his ear and whispered, and David immediately looked up, eyes wide, and stared at her for a few seconds. She smiled back at him innocently, and after another moment, he shifted restlessly in his seat, forcing his eyes off Fox and back to the movie screen.
Fox's eyes narrowed, and for a moment her smile turned to a thoughtful frown. Then the smile returned. With a small movement of her right hand, she "accidentally" knocked her pen from the little desktop to the floor, and made immediately to pick it up.
David sat up ramrod straight as Fox suddenly leaned over him, resting her weight on his knee, her body pressing against him, as she reached between his legs. The startled look on his face turned to one of mischievous amusement as she resurfaced and held up her pen. Fox returned to an upright position in her own seat, setting the pen back where it had been before, but keeping her leg pressed against David's. She turned her eyes back to the front, but she didn't have to wait long before she felt his fingers brushing against her arm. She moved subtly closer to him, her skin tingling as the hand continued up her arm, over her shoulder, and finally downwards, along her spine.
David smiled happily as he secretly massaged his wife's back through the thin silk of her blouse. He felt her move closer, and he did the same, both of them crowding the armrest until he was nuzzling her neck. Fox grinned almost triumphantly and turned to him... and a moment later, they kissed.
* * * * *
Iris crossed her fingers as her eyes scanned down the list of student ID numbers printed on the green and white printout taped to the wall and then panned across to her final exam score. "Yes!" she yelped excitedly, shattering the musty silence of the empty hallway.
"Ms. Chang!" the imposing gray-bearded man called down the hall. Iris turned as Professor Macduff hurried up to her. "Have you seen Jo-, er, Dr. Walker today?" he asked, slightly out of breath. "We were supposed to meet for lunch, but I was unexpectedly detained," he added after a moment when all Iris did was look at him blankly.
Iris nodded. "I think she's attending the symposium today over in Davis Auditorium," she replied.
"Thank you, Ms. Chang," the man replied, already turning to hurry off.
"You're welcome, Professor," she replied as he disappeared around a corner. She shook her head and grinned. "He's got it for her bad," she whispered to herself, smirking. Turning, she shifted the books in her arms and continued down the hall.
* * * * *
"Excuse me. Excuse me. Pardon me. Excuse me." Dominique sighed as she and Candice reached the aisle, and smoothed her skirt demurely. "What a waste of time," she muttered to her executive assistant as she began heading up the aisle toward the doors at the back of the darkened auditorium. Candice nodded her agreement.
"Next time they have one of these, let's just send Lydia to take notes," Candice suggested solicitously.
Dominique gave a small smile. "This drivel is more her speed, isn't it?" she asked rhetorically as they reached the doors. Suddenly, Dominique stopped in her tracks, her hand reaching up to her shoulder, feeling for something that wasn't there. "Blast! My purse!"
It took Candice only a second to make the connection and respond before even being asked. "You must've left it under your seat - I'll get it, Ms. Destine."
She was hurrying back down the aisle before Dominique could even say, "Thank you."
* * * * *
Lennox sprinted up the building's steps by twos, earning second glances from the few students who were milling about on them, taking up some sun. He dashed into the building and spied the auditorium's doors immediately, and charged straight on in without even slowing down.
The ancient door mechanism gave way easier than Lennox had anticipated, spilling him into the back of the auditorium and right into the unsuspecting arms of...
"Demona?!?" His eyes went wide with shock.
The woman in the stylish red business suit jumped back, startled, a look of abhorrence on her face. "Macbeth?!?" she hissed, pushing him away roughly.
He stumbled back a step, but the door had begun closing behind him and he bumped painfully into the edge of it, bounced forward, and ended up in her unwelcoming arms again. Dominique couldn't get her hands up push him away again; she bent over slightly, gasping as a sharp pain jabbed into her own back, making her stumble, as well. They collided, and grappled with each other in the dim light, both trying to recover their balance and their dignity.
"What are you doing here?" was the question they asked simultaneously as they attempted to disentangle, his deep tenor voice blending in weird melody with her shrill alto.
* * *
"So you can see that the DNA replication..." Dr. Goldblum raised his laser pointer and glanced up at the audience again. He paused and cleared his throat. "Ok... there are people... making out in here."
A low murmur and rustling accompanied the collective craning of necks. In the back of the auditorium, Dominique Destine and Lennox Macduff looked up suddenly, startled, as heads turned to them. Finally, they pushed apart from each other, and for a brief moment, the two former allies stood there, barely three feet from each other, Macbeth's face contorted into a frown and Dominique Destine crossing her arms defiantly.
Near the front, David and Fox moved away from each other quickly, both blushing, as several dozen pairs of eyes fell upon them. Fox ran a hand over her hair. Part of it had come undone from the loose but neat braid it had been in before, but David didn't seem to notice the lipstick on his cheek until Fox hurriedly thrust a handkerchief at him.
Dr. Goldblum took a sip from his glass of water. "When you're ready, I'll continue," he announced. "I can't compete with sex."
Down front, there was hushed giggling and whispering, but many in the back rows were still staring, heads turned over their shoulders, at Ms. Destine and Mr. Macduff. One of those still looking at them was Dr. Joanna Walker, the woman Lennox had originally entered the room to find. Now, it seemed she had found him. He blushed and began trying to explain, flummoxed, as she rose from her seat.
Dominique, however, clenched her teeth together, her eyes burning. Her fingers curled and uncurled involuntarily several times before she spun away and shoved her way out the door.
Candice barely paid attention to the angry-looking blond in blue jeans and the tall, gray-haired man she was just beginning to yell at. She shouldered Ms. Destine's purse along with her own and hurried out the door after her boss.
* * * * *
Destine Manor, 5:05 PM
Dominique set the tray bearing her microwaved dinner down on the coffee table and placed the book that was tucked under her arm down carefully beside it. After lighting a few more candles to brighten the room, she flopped down on the sofa. Tilting her head back, she closed her eyes and let out a long, slow breath. A quiet ride home from Candice, a long soak in a soothing bubble-filled bath, and a change of clothes into a warm pair of sweats fresh from the dryer had done wonders to improve her mood since her unexpected run-in with her "ex-husband."
She pulled her feet up onto the sofa and spread out sideways on the cushions. Pushing the sleeves up on her oversized sweatshirt, she reached across to the coffee table and picked up one of the tiny pizza rolls and popped it into her mouth. She chewed slowly, then shrugged, swallowed, and reached for another. It wasn't gourmet fare, but it was good enough for something that had taken all of five minutes to prepare.
The last of the pizza rolls disappeared within a few minutes, and Dominique washed the whole lot down with a long sip from a tall glass of milk before settling back contentedly on the sofa cushions. Propping herself up on a couple of throw pillows, she reached at last for the book she had brought in from her study.
"Tell me something upbeat for a change, Michel," she muttered as she cracked open the old journal. "I could really use a change of pace tonight."
She flipped through the pages and found the place she had marked the last time she had pulled the book out of the doubly locked safe that was tucked in the corner of her study.
"Egg of doom." The phrase jumped off the page at her, and her stomach twitched uneasily as she recalled the night not more than eight months before when she had first decided to teach Angela in the arts of magic. She flipped to the next page quickly, and scanned to the next entry that wasn't written as a quatrain. The journal was part diary, part workbook, its pages littered with quatrains that never saw publication, some of them with meanings so deeply hidden, even she could not decipher them until after the fact. It frustrated her, and she was in no mood for frustration tonight.
He eyes locked onto a benign-looking entry, penned in a freehand cursive that was nearly illegible to anyone but her. She smiled wryly, recalling a comment Andrea had made to her just the other day about doctors and their handwriting. "I guess that's just another way you were ahead of time, Michel," she spoke aloud. She settled back and began reading.
Dominique's brow furrowed in puzzlement as she reached the end of the first paragraph. "This isn't about the future," she mumbled, the connections forming in her brain as she spoke, "it's about the past." She kept reading, enraptured now, following the text onto the next page until her eyes darted ahead to a string of words a few lines down, set off from the rest of the text in being scribed neatly in all capital letters.
Dominique sat up excitedly. "I have that book! I know I do... somewhere..."
Her barefooted strides echoed through the empty house as she bounded to her study.
* * * * *
Castle Wyvern, 7:52 PM
"Are you sure you don't want me to accompany you to Maine?" Owen asked as he set the pair of suitcases down just outside the nursery door.
"Don't be silly, Owen," Fox said as she zipped Alex into his jacket. "It's just for the weekend, and if we have any real trouble, you're just a cel phone call away. Besides," she continued, "I'm sure Petros already has a million and one things planned for Alexander... and David and I need some time... alone." She looked up at him, half expecting a Puckish grin to be splayed across his face.
Owen neither smiled nor frowned; he only inclined his head slightly. "Very well, Ma'am," he replied stoically, after a momentary pause. "I'll take your bags up to the helicopter." He slipped the shoulder strap of the one bag over his right shoulder, hefted the suitcases again and turned, nearly bumping into David as he approached. "Excuse me, Mr. Xanatos," he said, stepping to the side.
David moved nearer to the wall and swept his hand out, "Carry on, Owen," he replied, gesturing for him to pass.
"Thank you, sir," Owen responded. He adjusted his grip on the bag in his good hand and continued briskly down the hall.
"Are you two almost ready?" David asked as he stepped into the nursery. He squinted as the early evening sunlight streaming in low through the window caught him square in the face, and stepped to the side, blinking the spots from his eyes.
Fox finished tying a shoelace on a tiny sneaker and then stood up, lifting the toddler up into her arms. "All set," she announced.
"Wan' see gwampa!" Alex cheered enthusiastically. His fuzzy stuffed gargoyle dangled from one hand, while he reached up with the other to tug on the brim of his mother's cap.
David looked Fox up and down appraisingly, taking in her functional yet still well-tailored pale blue flight suit and matching boots as she approached. "You know, we could just take the limo to the airport once in a while."
Fox smirked. "What, and deny me one of my few remaining pleasures?" She handed Alex to his father and straightened her cap. "You just want more of what you got this afternoon," she chastised as she pulled her gloves from her pocket.
David accepted the squirming toddler and grinned back at her. "Can you blame me?"
"You'll be getting more than you can handle soon enough," Fox replied slyly. She smacked him lightly on the shoulder with her gloves. "Now get," she added playfully. "Take off's in five minutes."
David gave a wide grin. "You heard the lady, Alex," he said to the child in his arms.
"Hewicopta!" Alex exclaimed, pointing a chubby hand toward the ceiling.
Fox chuckled contentedly as her husband and her son departed for the courtyard. After a moment more of motherly checking to make sure they were leaving nothing they would need behind, she pulled on her flying gloves and headed after them.
* * * * *
Castle Wyvern, 8:31 PM
The sun set, and once more, eleven gargoyles broke free from their stone sleep, watched from the courtyard below by their mechanical siblings. Coldstone and Coldfire looked on, hands clasped together, as all but one of the Wyvern clan roared and stretched as they always did upon awakening. The exception was Broadway, who merely shrugged of his stone covering and stepped down from his perch, in a wobbly fashion, not even bellowing. As the others gathered the two beasts and began gliding down to the courtyard to greet the constructs, he simply staggered along the battlements.
Angela stepped away from the parapet. "Broadway!" she cried, rushing concernedly to his side. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," he told her hurriedly. He blinked rapidly a few times, and rubbed his head. "Nothing to worry about, Angela. I just got a little dizzy for a minute." His voice wavered as he spoke.
"Can you glide?" she asked.
"Of course I can glide," he said, a bit more steadily, opening his wings. As if to prove it, he stepped to the parapets. "Now let's go down and join the others."
Angela climbed up beside him and watched skeptically as he took off. He traveled about ten feet before his wings suddenly folded back and went limp. He plummeted like a stone.
"Broadway!" Angela shouted. She dove, wings tight, and grabbed him by the arm, throwing her wings open again and crying out as the air caught them and wrenched them back. She gritted her teeth and fought to hold on, feeling their descent slowing but not nearly enough.
Angela gasped as strong arms wrapped around her and they suddenly decelerated. She looked up into her father's face. They touched down a second later as a group, landing hard but safely on the courtyard pavement.
"Thank you, Father," Angela said between gasps. She took Sata's arm gratefully for a moment as the others clustered around to help.
Goliath steadied Broadway. "What happened?" he asked both of them at once.
"From down here, it looked like his wings just gave out," Brooklyn answered as Angela and Broadway tried to catch their breath.
Sata eyed Broadway intently. "You are lucky Angela-chan was there to catch you."
Broadway brushed Goliath away. "I can stand by myself," he said at last.
"No offense, Uncle Broadway, but you looked like a hatchling up there," Graeme said.
"Yeah. Are you sick, Uncle Broadway?" Ariana asked innocently.
"I'm fine," Broadway insisted. He tried to take a step and staggered. Angela rushed to steady him again.
"You are not fine," she said, staring at him closely with the same worry in her eyes as the night before. She felt his forehead, then paused, looked at his neck closely, and gasped. "The bite mark is still there!" she exclaimed, a note of terror creeping into her voice.
"Impossible," Broadway retorted, feeling his neck with his hand. "Feels gone to me."
"No, it's not gone!" Angela insisted. She made him hold his head still as Goliath and Brooklyn leaned over to inspect. While no open wound remained, two dark, ominous spots marked the place where the Unseelie Halfling's fangs had penetrated his skin.
Goliath rumbled deeply. "She is right," he said gravely.
"It could be just a scar," Brooklyn said, trying to be optimistic. The look on Angela's face told him she didn't share his opinion.
"Coupled with his sickly appearance tonight, I do not think we can dismiss it that easily, Brooklyn-san," Sata put in.
"I don't get it," said Lexington. "It was just a little bite. It ought to have healed during his sleep. Why didn't it?"
Goliath growled slightly. "It was an Unseelie Halfling that delivered Broadway his injury," Goliath replied. "And they are no longer truly human, but are touched with the magic of the Third Race. Wounds that they deal us may be very different from the harm that normal humans can inflict."
"You mean, it could be like a vampire's bite?" Ariana asked.
"I always thought that those guys looked like they belonged in Transylvania," Graeme added.
Angela looked alarmed. Broadway didn't look any happier.
"Children, please," Sata cautioned.
"No, they are right," Goliath interrupted. "The analogy could very well be accurate."
"So what are we going to do about it, lad?" Hudson asked.
"Will everyone stop talking about me like I'm not even here?" Broadway shouted angrily. Angela held on to his arm, and he slumped back against her, the mere effort of speaking taking the wind out of him.
Goliath frowned thoughtfully. "I think that it would be best if you remained here at the castle tonight," he said to Broadway at last. "Angela, you will look after him?"
She nodded, looking at her love with a worried expression on her face.
"Children, you will stay here to assist your Aunt and Uncle, and look after the beasts, as well," Sata announced.
Graeme and Ariana nodded obediently. "Yes, Okasan," they chimed together.
Goliath nodded his approval. "The rest of us will patrol as usual," he stated. "We cannot afford to give the Halflings any cause to grow more bold in their attacks."
"We will accompany you tonight, brother," Coldstone announced, stepping forward with his mate.
"Yes," added Coldfire, "We shall fill in for Broadway and Angela." She cast as concerned a glance as a robot can give at the couple.
"Thank you, brother, sister," Goliath replied. "Your presence is welcome and appreciated."
"Come on, Broadway," Angela said firmly, "Let's get you inside and off your feet." Broadway didn't protest this time. He allowed Angela to place his arm around her and lead him into the castle. Graeme and Ariana rounded up Bronx and Nudnik and trailed after their aunt and uncle.
The other gargoyles took to the battlements and divided into groups, preparing to glide off on their patrols.
"So what are we going to do?" Lexington asked Goliath as he climbed up on the wall beside the clan leader.
"I am not sure," replied Goliath. "Perhaps..." He hesitated uncomfortably. "Perhaps Angela will know what to do. She has been taking lessons from her mother, after all." He looked back over his shoulder, watching as Angela, Broadway, and the twins disappeared into the castle.
* * *
"Come on, Broadway. It's just a few more steps." Angela guided the big gargoyle gently into the library, and seated him on the sofa. Graeme and Ariana watched from the door hesitantly.
"It's okay," Angela said, looking up and seeing them. "You can come in." They entered cautiously, holding back and examining Broadway anxiously. Nudnik butted between them as if he was going to approach, but he too stopped, sitting down suddenly and sniffing the air nervously. Bronx was braver, circling around the back side of the couch and coming to Angela's side before sitting down and whining uneasily.
"What's wrong with Uncle Broadway?" Ariana finally asked.
"That's what I'm going to try to figure out," Angela said resolutely as she surveyed the contents of a low shelf near the corner of the walls.
"I probably just ate something that disagreed with me, that's all," Broadway said to the twins as he shifted his tail.
Graeme and Ariana looked at each other skeptically. To their knowledge, their Uncle Broadway had never met a food he didn't like.
Angela, however, ignored the comment as she found what she was looking for in her small but steadily growing collection of study aids her mother had given her. Opening a plain accordion-style folder, she withdrew a small scroll, unrolled it, and began looking over the Latin spell written upon it.
Broadway twitched uncomfortably. "Is it hot in here or is it just me?" he asked after a moment.
Angela looked up from the scroll and stepped over to him, pressing her hand against his forehead again. Her eyes widened in surprise. "Broadway!" she gasped. "You've got a fever!"
"I'll be all right soon, Angela," he tried to reassure her. "It'll blow over."
Angela sighed under her breath. "Here, Broadway. Just hold still, and listen."
The twins watched in fascination as she held up the scroll and read the spell upon it out loud.
She pronounced each word extra carefully, holding the meaning firmly in her mind. "Show me the health and true nature of all whom I behold."
As the last word was spoken, her eyes flashed briefly, and then she turned her gaze fully upon Broadway.
A sickly, flickering green glow now surrounded him. She turned her head, taking in Graeme, Ariana, and the two beasts. Each of them was surrounded by a steady, strong blue glow. Angela looked back at Broadway. The glow surrounding him was pale and flickering, and she gazed upon it, troubled.
"What are you doing, Aunt Angela?" Ariana inquired timidly.
"Reading auras," Angela replied. She looked over at the young female, noticing the concerned look on her childlike features. "It's something my mother taught me."
"Why?" Ariana queried innocently.
"So I can spot disguised Unseelie fay," Angela answered, "and protect my clan from them," she added, sounding a bit guilty.
Ariana absorbed that, then spoke up again. "What do auras look like?" she asked.
"Don't keep bothering her, Ari-chan," Graeme chided, poking her on the arm. Ariana threw a warning glare at him that was rather reminiscent of the ones Sata sometimes gave Brooklyn.
"No, Graeme, it's all right," Angela replied before they could begin to squabble in earnest. She looked at the two children, watching the glow surrounding them vibrate energetically. "It's like looking at bright lights," she explained. She turned back to Broadway, wincing a bit as his aura shifted colors.
Broadway sat up weakly, putting a hand out to steady her. "Angela?"
The twins came up beside her. "I'm okay," she said. "The lights just hurt my head sometimes, that's all." She looked at Broadway again, her expression pained as her eyes followed the invisible lights.
"How does my... aura look, Angela?" Broadway asked quietly.
Angela hesitated. The lessons her mother had given her had been brief, and had never been intended to provide her with diagnostic skills. "I'm not sure," she said at length, "but it doesn't look good. It's... it's like there's something else in there... I don't know what it is... I'll have to look through my books." She took his hand and squeezed it to reassure him, trying to manage a confident smile.
"Is Uncle Broadway gonna be okay?" Ariana asked worriedly, startling Angela from her thoughts. Angela looked up, but was unsure what to say in response.
"Of course he is, Ari," Graeme answered for her. He put his arm around his sister. "Come on, let's go feed Nudnik and Bronx and let Aunt Angela take care of him," he suggested.
The twins rustled the beasts out of the room and closed the doors behind them as they left. Angela sat down beside Broadway and took his hand again. "Don't worry, my love," she said to him. "I'll find a way to cure you. Somehow."
Her eyes betrayed her uncertainty, and Broadway returned her gaze with a troubled look.
* * * * *
Uptown, 10:42 PM
Goliath and his clanmates waited impatiently on top of the World Trade Center, scanning the horizon.
"Look," Lexington cried, pointing to the east. "There they are!"
"At last," Goliath said, relieved.
Talon and the Mutates gradually gained shape as the distance closed.
The panther-like leader wasted no time, clasping forearms in greeting with the Wyvern clan leader only a moment after he descended to the rooftop. "Goliath, we came as soon as we could. What are we up against now?"
"The Unseelie have a new weapon," Goliath explained. "They have mutated humans, infusing them with their own essence."
Talon snarled a feral growl of impatience. "This is not news, Goliath. Remember what we found a few weeks back, prowling around near the Labyrinth?"
"But it is," said Brooklyn stepping up to stand shoulder to shoulder with his clan leader. "These Halflings bite. They got Broadway."
"What is the effect of this bite?" Sharon asked, stepping forward into the conversation. Her ears twitched with cat-like interest.
"Broadway is sick, and he is not getting better, despite a night of stone sleep," Sata replied.
Maggie, standing at Talon's side, took a deep, surprised breath. "What can we do to help?" she said, speaking for her clan.
"Help us find this Halfling," Goliath stated. "Perhaps if we have her in our custody we can find a way to cure Broadway."
"Give us a description," Talon said. "We'll help you look."
Brooklyn described their opponents of the previous night and the winged warriors divided into teams to search the city.
* * * * *
Castle Wyvern, 11:30 PM
Angela sat on the floor, the entire contents of her single shelf of primers and scrolls scattered around her. She looked up at Broadway, now reclined on the couch and dozing lightly, and gave a frustrated sigh. So far, she had found nothing that seemed of any use to her, and he was only becoming weaker. If he wasn't able to get back up and walk when he woke, she doubted whether she would even be able to carry him from the room without help.
She jumped up as the door opened, startled, then gave a relieved sigh when she realized it was only Owen. She blinked as she looked at him. The spell that allowed her to perceive the auras of others was still functioning, and at first she was surprised to see two blended glows of light surrounding Xanatos's Executive Assistant. One was a quiet and unspectacular gray, the other a burst of lively reds, blues, greens, and purples that danced merrily all about him. She shook her head and blinked her eyes again, remembering Owen's other identity as the spell finally wore off, returning her vision to normal.
"Owen," she greeted, stepping over the mess of scattered books and walking over to him. "I'm glad you came."
Owen nodded. "The children told me of Broadway's state of health, Miss Angela," he said. "I thought it wisest to examine him, and see if he might need my assistance."
"He's getting worse, Owen," she said. "I examined his aura already. He's not well, and I think he's getting weaker." She cast a glance to the papers littering the floor. "And all I can figure from what little I can find in the books I have is that he's being affected by some sort of magic."
Owen stared at Broadway, still dozing on the couch, and looked perturbed. "That cannot be good news," he said.
"Is there anything that you can do?" Angela asked him desperately.
"Nothing as Puck, if that is what you mean," he replied. "Master Alexander and his parents are away in Bar Harbor, visiting Mr. Xanatos's father, and will not be back for another three days."
Angela blinked in shock. "I didn't know they were planning a trip."
"Neither did I," Owen replied, "until they came home and asked me to pack their bags." He paused, then added with a slight tone of annoyance, "They did not wish for me to accompany them."
Angela frowned. "And with Alex away..." she began.
"The Puck cannot come out to play," he concluded flatly.
Angela's worried frown deepened. "Then there's nothing that you can do?" she asked.
"Not personally, Miss Angela," he replied. "However, there is at least one other in this city whom you may contact for help."
"My mother," said Angela, nodding. She stepped to the corner of the room and picked up receiver of the telephone that was resting on the table. Pushing the buttons on the keypad delicately, she dialed her mother's phone number. Instead of the sound of ringing, however, all that she heard was a busy signal. She frowned slightly, and hung up.
"Is there a problem with the telephone, Miss Angela?" Owen inquired.
"No," Angela replied. "I guess she's just on the line right now," she explained to as she turned back around. She shrugged. "Maybe she's using her modem or talking to Andrea."
Owen raised an eyebrow.
"Andrea's a friend my mother made," Angela explained as she felt Broadway's forehead again. "She met her last month... she's an artist who paints pictures of gargoyles."
"I see," said Owen, intrigued.
Angela frowned, finding no change in his fever. "I'll try her again in a little while," she said as she sat back down with her spellbooks. "In the meanwhile, there has to be something in one of these books that I can use to help make him better..."
* * * * *
Destine Manor, 11:35 PM
The telephone sat silent on the edge of the worktable, the handset resting beside the empty cradle. Demona had taken it off the hook, not wishing to be disturbed as she worked. She was hunched over the book that Michel had mentioned in his journal, reading and writing at the same time as she translated the arcane text.
The quill scratching carefully on the paper was the only sound for several minutes, then Demona gasped and jerked upright, her wings flaring behind her and her arm nearly upsetting her inkwell. She caught it just before it toppled and obliterated the past hours' work, setting it aside quickly and snatching the book up in her talons.
"It can't be," she muttered to herself as she reread the passage. The words scribed on the page overcame her doubts, and her mind spun at a frantic pace.
* * * * *
Saturday, June 20, 1998 - Castle Wyvern, 12:25 AM
Angela hung up the phone for the third time and sighed. Three calls to Demona's home spread over the course of an hour, and a busy signal each time.
"Who could she still be talking to?" Angela asked aloud, exasperated. She hurried to Broadway's side as he stirred in his sleep. She could go over to Demona's house in person, but she didn't want to leave her beloved unattended. She held Broadway's hand against her cheek and thought.
Owen reentered the room carrying a stack of books. Angela looked up.
"The reading material you requested," he said as he set the pile on the end table. "I would not normally indulge a request to raid Mr. Xanatos' private collection," he added as he straightened back up, "but under the circumstances, I do not think he would mind."
"Thank you, Owen," Angela said as she took the first book off the top of the pile. She sank down against the couch, opened it, and began reading.
"I only wish I could do more to assist," Owen added, casting another worried glance at the slumbering gargoyle.
* * * * *
Downtown, 1:39 AM
"I wonder if we should have split up into bigger teams," Lexington said to Sharon as they paused to rest. The pair stood on the roof of an East Side apartment building, catching their breaths and scanning the city below. "I mean, sure, we cover more territory, but what happens if we actually run into these Halflings? They were pretty tough."
"We will do our best," Sharon said philosophically. "And we will hope. We know that Sevarius had a hand in their creation. I wonder though how closely their synthesis mirrors our own mutate process."
Lexington turned away from his patient scan of the city and examined Sharon. Though it was obvious her eyes were still searching the cityscape for any sign of the Halflings, it was just as clear that her mind was already seeking a solution for Broadway's cure.
"This is like looking for a needle in a haystack," Lexington said with disgust as he switched from a normal scan to an infrared. "But I sure appreciate your help, Sharon. We all do. After a while, you kind of take for granted just how big this island is."
"And how many hiding places it contains," Sharon added. "Come on, let's sweep the next quadrant. Maybe our luck will change nearer to the restaurant district."
"I hope so," Lexington said grimly as he opened his wings. "For Broadway's sake."
* * * * *
Castle Wyvern, 2:57 AM
Angela growled angrily and cast the last of Xanatos's books to the floor as she bolted to her feet.
"There's nothing in any of these!" she groaned. "I've looked through them all. Absolutely nothing!"
She stomped past Owen and grabbed the telephone again, jabbing the buttons furiously as she put the receiver to her ear. Her eyes flared red as the busy signal greeted her.
Owen caught her hand in a vice-like grip as she drove the receiver back towards its cradle with force enough to send it straight through the table. Her entire body trembled in her fury for a second, but then, as she looked at him, the glow faded from her eyes to be replaced with a deepening of the shade on her cheeks.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly, lowering her eyes.
Owen took the phone from her and replaced it carefully. "You do not need to apologize," he said. "Your frustration is understandable."
"I shouldn't have lost my temper," she chastised herself. "But I feel so... helpless." She crossed the room back to the couch and knelt down beside Broadway. He had now lapsed from a light, fitful sleep into near unconsciousness, although he was clearly still breathing. She adjusted the blanket that Owen had brought and she had placed over him earlier, yet still he shivered almost constantly. She ran her hand over his brow ridges gently, finding that his skin had become freezing cold to the touch.
Owen collected the books strewn upon the floor. "Are you certain there is nothing of use here?" he asked.
"Yes," Angela replied, frustration surfacing in her voice again. "I couldn't find anything about healing anybody from an Unseelie Halfling's attack."
Owen set the recollected stack back on the end table. "I had thought as much," he said gravely. "Though the Unseelie have been around for millennia, the Halflings are a very new creation. There has not been time enough to develop spells or incantations designed specifically to counteract the harm that they can inflict upon others."
"Then that means that Broadway is - " Angela began. She could not bring herself to complete the sentence.
"Not necessarily," said Owen. "Your mother may have access to some general-purpose healing spell, but we will need to contact her in order to obtain it." He paused. "Though judging from what your experiences these past hours, it would appear that is easier said than done."
Angela sighed, shaking her head and turning back towards Broadway. "I feel so helpless," she repeated, watching him. "His life's slipping away, and there's nothing that I can do to stop it."
* * * * *
Destine Manor, 3:11 AM
Demona lay down her pen carefully, and let the parchment sit for a minute so that the ink could finish drying. It had taken hours to translate the spell, and her eyeballs ached from the effort of reading the tiny print. But now, at last, she picked up the completed scroll, trembling at the realization of what she now held in her talons.
It was perhaps the most deadly powerful spell she had ever discovered, the magical equivalent of a neutron bomb but infinitely more precise. She read over the scroll carefully and silently, comparing back to the original text to ensure she had made no transcription errors. Satisfied for the moment, and knowing she would recheck her work at least three more times before she even though about casting it, she pulled Michel's journal back onto the table in front of her and studied the entry he had written again.
"Having read the Black Book of Nantes, I can indeed confirm that its reputation as one of the greatest collections of spells and incantations in the world is truly justified. And this is all the more so, for it contains within its pages one of the most powerful enchantments ever formulated by human mages: the Bane of the Fair Folk.
"Almost-forgotten legends have it that this spell was originally created by the wizards of Atlantis, in the dark days before recorded history when the Third Race was engaged in a great civil war. Though it was meant to be used as a defense against the fay, whose wanton use of magic had devastated the World of the First and Second races, the spell was never cast; Atlantis itself was destroyed before its mages could complete their preparations. Like the city that created it, the spell was believed lost for many centuries, its fate unknown. Its very existence has only been hinted at in the writings of other sorcerers; not even the Grimorum Arcanorum has given the text of the spell. But the Black Book of Nantes does, and that may quite possibly be the only copy that presently survives in written form.
"If the remainder of the legends are true, I can only pray that this fearsome weapon is never put to use, for the results of that act would be terrible beyond belief indeed. Even the visions I have recorded of the weapons of science to be constructed by Man in years to come pale in comparison to the reputed power of this spell. Casting it requires the summoning and collecting of an incredible amount of magical energy, and when that power is finally unleashed at the climax of the casting, it will sweep across the Earth and nullify the natural patterns of magic that encircle it, perhaps even extinguishing them utterly.
"Such an event would destroy the faerie-folk outright and without mercy; magic is their life-blood, their very essence, and to disrupt it is to kill them. But they will not be the only ones who will suffer from its effects. It shall also slay any of mortal birth who have been touched by magic or attuned in any way to Arts, from the mightiest wizard to the lowliest apprentice, regardless of their skill or awareness of magic. Were this spell to be cast, the only users of magic to survive its utterance would be gargoyles, for only at noon on the longest day of the year may it be cast, and the stone sleep of the gargoyles would protect them from it."
Demona set down the journal slowly. She had read this passage before, but her mind had been focussed then on the preparations she would need to make to protect herself. The list of items she needed to fetch from her secret room at Nightstone rested undisturbed near the edge of the table, but she barely glanced at it now. She read the last paragraph a third time, an uneasy dread growing in the bowels of her stomach as she did. The words came softly to her lips.
"'...regardless of their skill or awareness of magic.' But that means Andrea..." Demona swallowed hard, and looked back to the scroll she had transcribed the spell onto. The ink was dry now... and the clock was ticking.
* * * * *
23rd Precinct House, 4:12 AM
Elisa leaned over her desk and lowered her voice as Captain Chavez walked past. "And you're sure that this is magic?" she asked into the phone.
"That's what it has to be," replied Angela. "And Owen's certain of it. But I can't cure him, and the Xanatoses took Alex with them to Maine, so Owen can't try anything until they get back. But that won't be for three days." The female gargoyle lowered her voice. "I don't think that Broadway will last that long," she added raggedly. "Elisa, we have to find my mother."
"This sounds serious," Elisa said. She picked up a pen and pretended to be taking notes as footsteps sounded behind her. She stopped when she realized out of the corner of her eye that it was only Matt. "You've tried calling her over the phone?"
"Four times. There wasn't any answer."
"Who is it?" Matt mouthed as he sat back down at his desk.
"Could she have gone out of town on business?" Elisa asked as she scrawled the word "ANGELA" on her notepad and held it up for Matt to see. His eyes widened and he nodded.
"She would have told me if she was going to be away," Angela replied with certainty.
"Has anyone gone to her house to look for her?" Elisa asked. She was in pure detective mode now.
"I contacted the clan and Brooklyn and Sata were going to check, but I haven't heard back from them yet. They're still out on patrol with the others. Elisa, is there anything that you can do to help us find her?"
"I'll do what I can, Angela," Elisa said reassuringly. "Don't worry. Matt and I will see what we can find out."
"Thank you, Elisa." The words were said in such a way that the detective had no doubt that if they were speaking in person, Angela would have her in a bear hug.
"I'll call you as soon as I have anything. You be sure to call me right away if anything changes, okay?"
"Of course, Elisa." Angela replied. "Goodbye."
"Goodbye, Angela," Elisa replied. She hung up the phone and sighed. She looked at Matt, tapping her fingers on her desk.
"What have you volunteered us for this time?" he asked. He was already standing up and getting his coat.
"Missing person case," she answered. "You remember Destine Manor?" Elisa asked nonchalantly as she rose from her own chair.
"How could I forget?" he asked. He picked up a thick folder from his desk and held it up. "I'm still filling out the paperwork from that call." He tossed the folder back down as he followed Elisa from the Bullpen. "But what's that got to do with anything?"
"Our missing person is Demona," Elisa said as she zipped up her jacket and pushed through the door.
Matt blinked, opened his mouth, and decided this time he didn't want to ask. Shaking his head, he followed after his partner.
* * * * *
Castle Wyvern, 5:20 AM
A whoosh of wings announced Goliath and Hudson's return, accompanied by a rumble of jet engines as Coldstone and Coldfire set down beside them. Lexington spiraled down a few seconds later. Brooklyn and Sata were the last to alight in the courtyard, and were greeted with hugs by their children.
Angela waited in the doorway with Owen, steadying Broadway against her.
"How is he?" Goliath asked, stepping towards her as she helped Broadway move outside.
"Not well," she replied. "And I can't find any way of helping him get better." She turned to Brooklyn and Sata. "Did you have any luck finding my mother, or the Halflings that attacked Broadway?"
The mated couple looked at each other. "I'm sorry, Angela. We looked around Demona's house... I even knocked on the door. I don't think she was home," Brooklyn explained.
Angela's expression fell.
"Elisa and Matt arrived there just after we did," Sata added. "We spoke to them. They will keep looking for Demona during the day."
"I hope they can find her." Angela was nearly in tears.
Goliath took her his arms. "Elisa is a good detective," he said. "We must have faith in her. And Talon has promised to aid us in the search for the Halflings again tomorrow."
Hudson cleared his throat. "'Tis nearly dawn," he announced, glancing up at the sky. He looked at Broadway critically with his good eye. "Is the lad well enough to make it up onto the tower?"
Broadway looked up, opening his eyes, and tried to manage an encouraging look. He failed.
"I will help you get him to his perch," Goliath offered.
"No," Angela said. "I don't want to risk him falling again. I think it'd be better for me to stay with him here, in the courtyard."
"They will be safe down here, brother," Coldstone assured him.
"We will watch over them," Coldfire added.
Goliath nodded. "Very well." He stroked Angela's hair one last time and then joined the others in climbing to their daytime places on the tower.
Coldstone and Coldfire helped steady Broadway as he tried to assume his usual ferocious pose. Angela stepped away, too concerned with her mate-to-be to bother trying to look fierce. Sunrise found them a few moments later setting the sickly look on Broadway's face and the worried, pained one on Angela's in stone.
* * * * *
Midtown Manhattan, 7:19 AM
Dominique Destine picked at her food, poking absently at the grapefruit half with her spoon. Her stomach rumbled loudly, and at last she scooped up a piece and swallowed it.
"Dominique?" She looked up at the sound of the familiar voice. Andrea stood a few feet away, holding her own breakfast on a tray. She smiled as their eyes met. "I thought that was you!" she said, shaking her head. "Mind if I join you?"
Dominique looked at the empty space across from her, then back at Andrea. "No, please," she said.
"Thanks!" Andrea said brightly. She set her tray on the table and slid into the booth.
"What strange luck running into you," the younger woman said. "I almost didn't recognize you, dressed like that."
Dominique felt a wave of self consciousness rush over her, and her eyes darted down quickly, her mind suddenly filled with worry that in her mechanical morning rush she had left the house wearing her loincloth. She sighed with relief at seeing she had on jeans and an oversized sweater.
She looked back up and managed a tiny smile. "Well, you didn't think I wear suits every day?"
Andrea laughed and emptied the contents of a small box of corn flakes into her bowl. She shook her head. "No, but the only time I've seen you not 'dressed up' is the day we met at the art fair."
Dominique nodded. She looked down at her own breakfast. Suddenly she wasn't hungry anymore.
"So where were you last night?" Andrea inquired as she opened a little carton of milk to pour over her cereal. "I tried calling three times but the number was busy."
Dominique just blinked, her eyes focussed on the crystal pendant around Andrea's neck.
Andrea tilted her head slightly. "Dominique?"
She looked up. "Oh. I'm sorry... I got tied up working late on my computer." Her stomach knotted at how easily the lies came. "I have to go into the office for a while this morning, too" she added.
"On Saturday?" Andrea said, surprised. "Wow. You really are working too hard."
Dominique nodded, lost in her own thoughts again. Her food sat forgotten in front of her; she was too sickened to eat with her emotions warring within her. Andrea's "good luck charm" was magical, a minor talisman having no real power but making Andrea an unwary magic user nonetheless. And Michel's notations on the spell had been quite clear. If she cast it, Andrea would surely die.
"What is the life of one human?" Her own words picked a bad time to come back to haunt her. Her insides heaved and she nearly gagged; it was all she could do to keep herself from bringing up what little breakfast she had eaten.
Her head spun dizzily. The next thing she knew, she was leaning into the aisle with Andrea standing beside her and steadying her, patting her on the back and looking at her worriedly.
"Dominique? Are you all right?"
She shook her head "yes" and tried to speak, but found she could only cough, and Andrea quickly handed her a glass of water. She swallowed several gulps, which calmed the retching feeling in her stomach as she sat back up in her seat.
"I'm fine," she finally managed. Andrea sat back down tentatively, the look of concern still marring her face.
"Are you sure?" the younger woman asked.
They spent the rest of the meal in silence, Andrea finishing her breakfast and Dominique nursing the glass of water.
"Are you ready to go?" Andrea asked, after they had both sat there for several minutes without eating anything more.
Dominique nodded. They rose together and carried their trays to the waste receptacle near the exit of the cafeteria.
"I'm going to be busy today and tomorrow helping with the preparations for the Fourth of July party PIT is holding next weekend, so I guess I'll see you on Monday," Andrea said as they stepped outside.
Dominique looked up. "Yes," she replied. She paused, and grabbed Andrea by the arm as she began to move away. "Andrea, wait," she said hesitantly.
The younger woman turned back to her. "What is it, Dominique?"
Dominique let the words come before she could think twice about them. "Andrea, I want you to know... I value our friendship greatly. It has meant a lot to me... much more than I can probably ever explain."
Andrea looked at her oddly. "Jeez, you make it sound like we're never going to see each other again."
Dominique's mouth fell open. "Andrea, I..." No more words would come.
Andrea dismissed her previous comment with a shake of her head. "It means a lot to me, too, Dominique," she replied. Before Dominique could say more, the young woman gave her a quick hug. "I've gotta run or I'm gonna be late for that PIT meeting. I'll call you later!"
Andrea was already hurrying off. Dominique stood there for several seconds, shaken, and then finally managed to call after her with a "Goodbye."
* * * * *
The Brocken, Germany
Banshee approached the pair of imposing thrones timidly, and came to kneel beside the left one. "Milady," she said, bowing her head and holding out her hands.
Maeve's eyes lit up with a sparkle of green light as she accepted the object Banshee held.
"Have I done well, milady?" Banshee inquired mildly, bringing her eyes to meet the Unseelie Queen's.
"Yes, cousin," said Maeve, looking over the object in her hand again, and nodding. "Yes, this is the correct one. It should do very nicely."
Madoc looked up from the scroll in his hands, containing the latest report from London on the Minions' activities. "What are you two talking about?" he asked her.
"The Hand of Nai-No-Kami," Maeve replied regally, holding up the emerald claw-like object before his eyes. "One of the many objects we... appropriated over the past year. Our friend Mr. Takahashi secured it." She turned to Banshee, smiling. "It took me a great while to discover a use for it, and by that time it had been misplaced among the many other items in our collection. But Banshee found it in time."
"I see," Madoc said, examining the former Seelie carefully. "Excellent work," he said at last.
Banshee lowered her eyes, inwardly reveling in the praise as Maeve went on.
"I must depart at once if I am to put the Hand to use," she stated, rising from her throne, "but if the ancient accounts are true, the results should be very useful to our cause."
"Indeed?" asked the Unseelie Lord. "And I suppose that there is a reason behind your hurry to find and use this particular talisman?"
She nodded, gesturing with her hand and bidding Banshee to rise. "I'm taking it to Manhattan with me, for the summer solstice. On that day, when the magical patterns surrounding the island are in the proper phase, and the sun has reached the highest point of its arc, I will awaken its powers, and destabilize the fault lying deep beneath the city. The resulting earthquake should -" she paused and smiled, handing the talisman back to Banshee for safekeeping, "well, at the risk of sounding like Loki, it should shake things up quite a bit for the mortals."
"That sounds promising enough," said Madoc, nodding thoughtfully. "Though, there is the risk of 'Miss Angela Destine' perishing in the catastrophe before we can question her." He frowned. "We do still need the incantation, you know."
"Aye, we do. Which is why I won't be going alone."
Madoc raised an eyebrow. "And who will be joining you?" he inquired.
"I've already requested Loki to join me," Maeve answered. "He seemed happy enough to accept the invitation."
"Of course he would," said Madoc. "He's been given little enough to do since the Andvari's Ring errand, save helping Garlon deal with the Halflings. And Laufeyson has never been averse to a little random destruction... but I suppose he can be trusted to catch a falling statue if he knows his neck is on the line should he fail."
"Oh, I have already made that point quite clear," Maeve replied, her eyes glistening. "We will get the incantation, and after we do... let's just say I have some plans of my own for the impertinent 'Miss Angela Destine'."
Madoc relaxed back in his throne. "Hmm, I can only imagine," he commented. Maeve simply returned a tight-lipped grin.
Banshee gave a momentary questioning look that nearly went unnoticed by the two Unseelie rulers. She regained her demure composure just as Maeve turned to her. "I will also need assistance in preparing the talisman. What say you, Banshee?" She gestured to the room. "Are you ready to journey beyond these walls for the first time as a full member of the Unseelie Court?"
Banshee's mouth fell open, but for the first time since Oberon's gag had been removed, she was speechless. She floundered for words as Maeve smiled at her proudly. "Yes, my Queen, I would be honored," she finally managed.
"Excellent," Maeve replied. "We shall fetch Loki and leave at once." Her dark, emerald-highlighted hair billowed about her as she descended from the dais, Banshee falling in eagerly behind her.
Madoc straightened up in his throne again. "Of course, my dear Maeve," he called after them, "you do realize that if the earthquake is powerful enough - and from what I know of the Hand, it very likely could be - you could sink all of Manhattan beneath the sea."
Maeve paused at the door to the throne room, and turned back to Madoc with a small flourish. "Well, then, t'would not the first time that such an inundation's happened, would it?" she replied, with a wicked smile.
Madoc settled back in his seat. "Yes, I remember," he said. "My brother destroyed an island containing one of the oldest and most advanced civilizations to be found among humans at that time. Hundreds upon thousands of them perished from his wrath." He chuckled wryly. "And they call us the evil ones."
* * * * *
Nightstone Unlimited, 6:02 PM
"I sure hope this thing works as well as Dr. Lanel claims," Dominique said worriedly, examining the shoebox-sized device one last time. She set it gingerly on the desktop and pushed a button on the side. A soft, pulsating light and a nearly inaudible hum were the only signs the odd contraption was even running. Dominique tapped her finger against the side of the casing. "Not very impressive for a..." she paused, looking over at the research report from the Special Projects Division, "...electromagnetic flux stabilizer," she read.
"Still, once I cast the correct wards..." She picked up a scroll sitting next to the case and unrolled it, checking again to make sure it was the right one. She had so many secreted away, sometimes they all looked alike. She nodded, satisfied, and set the scroll carefully into a leather satchel, nestling it amongst the carefully measured bags of incense and the beeswax candles she had already packed.
Sighing, she turned the little device back off and placed it gently back into its impression in the foam-lined metal case. The lid was closed with a quiet snap and Dominique sat down in her chair, touching a button under the desk and resting for a moment as the door to her secret room closed and again became part of the wall.
She turned in her chair and looked out the window. The sun was low in the sky; it would be night in just a few more hours. She turned back to her desk and checked the clock, and flipped her fingers absently through her Rolodex as she thought.
"The preparatory incantations must be begun at midnight," she mused aloud, "but I'll need to allow at least two hours to set up everything..."
Her gaze fell upon the painting hanging on the one of the room's short walls, another of Andrea's works she had purchased, and suddenly she remembered that she had promised to sit for a portrait Andrea had wanted to do.
"All company presidents have portraits of themselves in their office," she had insisted, "You can hang it right here." And after a little more persuading and cajoling, Dominique had finally acquiesced.
Dominique's stomach turned and she closed her eyes for a moment, leaning her head forward into her hands. She rubbed her temples, sighed again, and reopened her eyes on a framed photograph resting on her desk. A smile came to her lips. It was a photo portrait of herself and Angela, as humans, which her daughter had presented to her as a gift on Solstice Night six months earlier. Despite all her attempts, she still had not managed to get the girl to reveal by what manner of photographic trickery she had had it made, or who had helped her do it. She picked the photo up and gazed at the image of her daughter.
"I would do anything to protect you, my child," she whispered. "Anything." She swallowed hard, fighting the quiver in her stomach, and set the photograph back down to wipe at her dampening eyes. She leaned back in her chair, trying to regain her composure. Her fingers curled and uncurled on the armrests as she looked again at the items she had gathered.
"If only there was a way to save them both," she whispered raggedly. She glanced at the clock, noting that only a scant few minutes had elapsed since she had last checked the time... and then her eyes were drawn almost magnetically to her Rolodex. She leaned forward in her chair quickly, snatching up the business card that was staring at her.
Dominique blinked. The card gave phone numbers for the New York office as well as the head office in Germany. She tapped the card on the desk nervously, glancing once again at the items she had readied to cast the spell that would mean death for all fay, and then at the phone.
* * * * *
Thursday, July 23, 1998 - Midtown, 11:58 PM
An icy gale swept through the deserted streets of Manhattan, whistling around the battered remains of rusted cars, half-buried in the snowdrifts. Tattered newspapers blew past the wall of an abandoned building, "Unseelies Go Home" spray-painted across the boarded-up windows. Crows pecked at something unrecognizable on the icy sidewalk, then flew off as several shadowy forms glided overhead, to settle amid the ruins of a toppled skyscraper at last.
"Are you sure that this is the place, Goliath?" asked Coldstone, scanning the area with the sensors in his cybernetic eye.
"The directions we received were quite clear, my rookery brother," said the clan's leader. "Besides, Elisa has never been wrong before."
"I guess this used to be the Chrysler Building," said Broadway sadly. He sighed, gazing down at a twisted and charred silver sculpture of a falcon's head lying on the ground not far away.
Hudson and Brooklyn set Bronx and Nudnik, whom they had been carrying, down on the ground. The two gargoyle beasts whined miserably, snuffling around in the snow.
"Okasan, why do we have to stay here?" Ariana asked. "Why can't we go back home?"
"Because the Unseelies have already destroyed the castle," Sata replied patiently.
"Yeah, what little of it there was left after the earthquake," Graeme put in dejectedly.
Sata gathered both her children to her. "Be thankful that we managed to escape with our lives."
"Yes," said Brooklyn, looking over the assembled group, "and remember that we weren't all as fortunate." He hung his head and sighed. "Poor Lex. The little guy never stood a chance."
"What do you think happened to Alex?" Angela asked quietly. "Or Xanatos and Fox? We found Lex, but we never found..." she trailed off, unable to say the words.
The others were silent. "I don't know," Brooklyn answered at last.
Broadway stepped to the young female and placed his arm around her shoulders. "We can't give up hope, Angela."
A low rumbling filled the air, and the gathered gargoyles instinctively grabbed on to the partially exposed steel columns of the remaining section of the building that rose above them. The sound intensified as the ground vibrated, and a fine mix of snow, concrete chips, and plaster dust fell around them. Within a few seconds, it was over.
"Another aftershock," observed Coldfire.
"The third one in as many hours," added Coldstone. He turned to Goliath as the group dusted themselves off. "Brother, this island is only growing more unstable..."
"We will not abandon our protectorate!" Goliath growled, heading off the suggestion he knew was coming.
"Goliath, most of the humans have already evacuated..." Broadway began. Goliath whirled, flaring his wings with eyes glowing white.
"He's right, Goliath," a female voice called. The gargoyles all looked up toward the voice. Two forms stood just inside a gaping hole in the far wall of the building. Wary, the gargoyles stiffened and prepared to attack, then relaxed a bit when the forms moved out of the shadows and became clearer. It was Elisa, with Matt leaning heavily on her.
"They're both right," said the dark-haired detective, approaching Goliath as quickly as she could. Coldstone and Coldfire moved to help her with Matt. "What's left of this city isn't safe anymore for human or gargoyle." She looked over the haggard, battle-weary clan. "Thank goodness you guys are okay. There are Unseelie all over the place."
"What happened to your partner?" asked Coldfire troubledly as she helped Matt to stand.
"We were ambushed at the station house," said Elisa. "Matt was hurt by a Redcap before we could get away." Elisa's face paled suddenly and she looked away. Goliath stepped toward her and took her by the shoulders.
"Elisa?" he asked gently.
Elisa sniffed and finally looked back at him. "Captain Chavez was with us, too... she didn't make it."
Goliath held her as Elisa buried her face against his chest and allowed herself to cry for a moment. The others looked on uncomfortably, Broadway and Angela pulling closer to each other and Brooklyn and Sata did the same with their children.
Coldfire pushed Matt's jacket aside, examining his injury critically. He winced. "It's nothing serious," he protested, pushing her away. "I'll be all right."
"Wounds delivered by the Unseelie are never 'all right'," said Goliath grimly to the red-haired detective as he and Elisa stepped apart. "Your injury should be attended to."
"Yeah, but that's the problem," said Brooklyn. "No hospitals left standing in New York anymore, remember?"
"And no one left to man them if there were," Elisa added, putting a grim expression back on and regaining her composure.
"Have ye two heard anything more about the world outside?" asked Hudson, breaking his long silence.
"We picked up a little news report on the radio before they attacked the station," said Elisa. "I'm afraid that it's all over. The President signed the surrender treaty and called off the military- like they gave him any choice. He's just a puppet to Madoc now."
"So they control the world," said Coldstone grimly. "Well, we will see to it that their regime does not go unchallenged."
"Yeah, but by just ten gargoyles, two gargoyle beasts, and two detectives?" said Brooklyn. "That's not good odds."
"Isn't there anybody else left?" asked Angela.
"Not since they destroyed the Labyrinth," said Elisa, her eyes hardening. "I swear, I'll make them pay for what they did to Derek and Maggie. And to Mom and Dad, and Beth, and now Maria...." Her voice trailed off.
"If we could only reach Avalon, we'd be safe there," said Angela. "It's the only place that is safe now."
"Until they find out how to get there as well," said Broadway. "And we don't even know that they already haven't."
Angela's eyes widened in fear and shock, and Broadway drew her close again. A long silence followed. At last Elisa looked to Goliath and spoke.
"We'll have to leave Manhattan," she said. "We're probably the last ones here. And the Unseelies are patrolling this city to hunt down survivors. Goliath, I know that you don't want to leave New York, but we don't have a choice. There's nobody left here to protect anyway. We're not doing anybody any favors by staying."
Goliath sighed heavily. "You may be right," he said. "But where do we have left to go?"
"Avalon sounds like the best bet to me," Elisa said, shrugging. "You know, after reading your note, I thought you guys had given this some more thought already," she added bitterly.
Goliath looked at her, confused, as did the rest of the gargoyles. "We are the ones who received a message...from you," he insisted. He produced an envelope from his belt and showed it to her.
Elisa grabbed it and hurriedly extracted the enclosed letter. Her eyes scanned it furiously. "Goliath, I didn't write this!" she exclaimed, suddenly fearful. Her hands went to her own pockets, and she withdrew a nearly identical envelope. "And I bet you didn't write this," she added, holding it out to him.
The others became instantly alert. Goliath looked at the second letter and growled. "No, I did not." He crumpled the papers in his fist angrily.
Angela stepped up beside her father hesitantly. "Then who did write them, and summon us here?" she asked timidly.
"I did," said a voice from above. The gargoyles, Elisa, and Matt looked up to see a dark form perched on a beam overhead, with two faintly glowing red eyes gazing down at them. With a rustle of wings, Demona swooped down and alighted a few feet away.
"Mother?" Angela exclaimed incredulously. "You sent the letters? Why?" She quieted as Demona stepped toward her and came fully into view. A grim, determined expression was set on her features, and she was clad in strange new armor with gold accents rather than her usual halter and loincloth.
"Forgive me, Angela," she said, a twinge of regret entering her voice. "It was the only way, you must understand that."
Angela stepped toward Demona as the others eyed her warily. "Mother, I don't understand. What are you talking about? Do you have a safe place for us to go?" Angela stopped about ten feet from Demona. Broadway moved to pull her back but froze as a sudden chill ran up his back and down his wings.
"You will be safe, Angela," Demona said sadly. "Always remember that I love you."
"Enough games, Demona," Goliath demanded. "If you have a plan, let's hear it."
"Yes," Elisa agreed. "Where will we go?"
"Nowhere," said a grim voice from all around them. The interior of the building, formerly dark save for the light peeking in through the cracks and holes in the wall, lit up with sudden brilliance, momentarily blinding the assembled gargoyles and humans. When their eyes finally cleared, Demona was the only one who did not gasp in shock at the sight before them.
Madoc sat, mounted on a winged horse, gazing down at them with a satisfied smile on his face. Maeve was by his side, on her own horse, her hair billowing regally on an invisible wind. A contingent of more Unseelies and Halflings surrounded them, George Harrison, Rael, and Rita recognizable among them.
Madoc adjusted his grip on the reins of his mount. "And now we finally have you all," he proclaimed.
Angela picked up on the guilty look on Demona's face a second before any of the others did. "Mother, you didn't..." she asked desperately.
Demona hung her head as Maeve nodded at her. "My apologies, Ms. Destine," she said wickedly. "You have proven my doubts unfounded."
The rest of the clan stood in mute shock, but Goliath whirled toward his former mate, roaring. "You have betrayed us again, Demona?!?"
Demona cringed away as he leapt for her, but Madoc tossed the big gargoyle back with but a gesture as his feet left the ground.
"What's done is done," the Unseelie Lord said boredly as Elisa and Hudson pulled Goliath back to his feet. Madoc looked to Maeve, who was staring at Angela in a way that was making Broadway begin to growl. "Our patience grows thin," he announced. "Will you surrender?"
"Mother, why?" Angela whispered tearfully, oblivious to the predatory gaze Maeve was casting in her direction.
"For you, Angela," Demona replied. "You won't be harmed... it was the only way."
"What say you, gargoyle?" Madoc demanded. "Will you surrender?" he repeated.
Angela turned her back to Demona, pulling herself back into Broadway's arms. Goliath looked over the rest of the clan; the group had pulled into a tight circle. Brooklyn and Sata's eyes were cold. Hudson had his sword out and wore a determined look. Elisa had moved into a ready crouch. "Never," Goliath answered finally, growling.
"The more's the pity," commented Madoc. "Unseelies, attack!"
The gathered Halflings and full-blooded fay obeyed gleefully, firing blasts of magic down upon the clan below. The gargoyles scattered, but it was too late. The Unseelies had already surrounded them.
"Destroy them all," ordered Madoc grimly. "Now!"
Their assailants bore down upon them. Coldstone fired laser shots from the cannon mounted on his arm, and Coldfire issued blasts of flame from her hands. Unfazed, the Unseelies easily warded off the assaults. George and Rael looked to each other and nodded, then shot twin bolts of green lightning at the two constructs, hurling them back against the wall to shatter into hundreds of metallic fragments. A crowd of frenzied Redcaps piled on top of Brooklyn, Sata, and the twins, while the yell-hounds from the Wild Hunt overwhelmed Bronx and Nudnik, and Herne laid Hudson and Matt low.
Demona stepped back and looked away, left seemingly unnoticed by the attacking fay. But she did not go unnoticed by Broadway. Moving Angela aside, he leapt at her with a roar. She didn't have time to react. His momentum forced her to the ground and pinned her arms beneath her. "Betrayer!" he screamed in her ear, crushing her wings painfully against her back as he sat on top of her. Demona gasped, then screamed.
Elisa spun about, trying to make sense of the chaos. A winged horse swooped down, and she grabbed for the reins as it moved past. Maeve toppled from her mount and landed at Elisa's feet, but wasted no time in righting herself. Elisa threw a punch, but Maeve caught the fist in her hand, then twisted her grip. Elisa cried out in pain as something in her arm snapped, and she sank to her knees. Maeve stood over her, smiling, and drew her sword.
"Swear fealty to me, human, and I will let you live... as my slave," the Unseelie Queen hissed. She tightened her grip, her smiling broadening as Elisa gasped from the pain.
"I should rip off your wings!" Broadway cried angrily, grabbing Demona's appendages as if he intended to do just that. Demona screamed again, and rolled, forcing him to topple off of her. She scrambled across the floor on all fours, but Broadway caught hold of her tail before she could get away. She dug in her talons as he tried to pull her back.
Maeve raised her sword and twisted Elisa's arm again. "Your answer, human!" she spat over Elisa's scream of pain.
Goliath barely heard Elisa's scream over his own roar. He hurled himself at Madoc, but before his feet could leave the ground, the Unseelie Lord calmly raised one hand and turned the gargoyle at once to stone. Smiling cruelly, he plucked a mace from the air and raised it.
Elisa looked up, at Maeve, and then past her, at the scene behind her. "Nooooo!" she cried in horror, rising to her feet and pushing past Maeve in a desperate attempt to block the blow. A soft gasp replaced her cry as the faerie blade penetrated her side. Maeve frowned with disgust as she withdrew her sword, and Elisa's lifeless body fell limp to the ground as Madoc's blow reduced the former leader of the clan to rubble.
"Father! Elisa!" cried Angela, rushing at Madoc. But the Redcaps and yell-hounds blocked her path, and she froze as Maeve looked up at her sharply. A chill fell over her as Maeve extended her hand and radiant wisps of green energy circled about her like translucent snakes. Maeve waved her hand slowly, almost hypnotically, then clenched her palm into a fist. As she did, the waves of energy coalesced. Angela barely had time to gasp before they tightened around her like invisible chains, binding her wings and arms securely against her body and holding her immobile before the Unseelie Queen.
"'Tis a pity," said Maeve, gesturing to the motionless woman on the ground. "I could've had a bit of fun with that one. She had such spirit." She held up her bloodied sword before Angela and it glowed briefly with intense light. When the light faded, the sword was clean again and she moved to return it to its sheath. "But you have spirit, too," she said, smiling mysteriously. She made another gesture and a whip of light appeared in her hand. She lashed out with it, curling the end around Angela's neck. The young female gasped helplessly as the energy whip solidified into a heavy adamantine collar and a matching length of chain, the end held in Maeve's hand. Maeve grinned and jerked the chain hard, pulling Angela to her knees before her and not more than a few inches from Elisa's fallen body. Angela stared up at the Unseelie Queen, eyes full of tears and horror as the triumphant fay leaned down toward her. "Spirit I shall take great satisfaction in breaking, my slave," she hissed.
Angela looked away from Maeve's fierce, primal gaze, tears forming in her eyes as her hands went numbly to the heavy collar clamped around her neck. The thick band of faerie metal was ice cold against her skin. She tugged at it weakly, but the realization had already set in. Elisa Maza's still body lay slumped on the ground at Maeve's feet. Goliath's stone form lay in pieces at Madoc's. The war was over... and her side had lost.
Madoc looked on, unamused, as Maeve stood triumphant over her new prisoner. "You may have your fun later, my Queen, after we have the key to Avalon. Take her back to the castle," said Madoc, ignoring the girl's terrified whimpering. "She has some questions to answer there."
"Aye," Maeve agreed, tugging on the chain to regain Angela's full attention. The Dark Queen stooped lower and took Angela by the chin with her free hand, smiling wickedly. "And this time, child, there will be no interruptions."
The mace vanished from Madoc's fingertips into the nothingness from which it had come, and he looked at the two broken bodies. "From dust thou art," he said, with utter contempt in his voice. Magic sprang from his fingertips, disintegrating the lifeless shells, letting them blow on the wind.
Broadway and Demona rolled on the ground, clawing and growling at each other, oblivious to everything else going on around them, until at last a few of the Halflings separated them, dragging them apart and back to their feet. Still, Broadway glared at Demona, chest heaving and eyes glowing brilliantly even as Rael and Rita held him fast... until he finally caught sight of Angela, cowed and in chains, kneeling at Maeve and Madoc's feet. At that, Demona was all but forgotten.
"Angela!" cried Broadway in horror. The last member of the resistance still standing, he barely even noticed the absence of his friends as he fought against the hands that held him, trying to spring at Madoc. His struggles were useless; the Halflings held him immobile with ease. "Let her go, you - you - " Words failed him.
"What are you doing?" demanded Demona as she took in the same scene as Broadway. She surged against the Halfling still holding her arm, shrugging George Harrison's hand off roughly. She stomped toward the two Unseelie rulers, pointing a talon angrily. "We had a deal, Ms. O'Connor!" Demona spat. "The girl belongs to me! You promised me no harm would come to her! I delivered my part of bargain - now you deliver yours!"
Angela gasped, her voice trembling in shock. "Mother, I can't believe you allied yourself with..."
"Oh, hush yourself, girl!" Maeve ordered, yanking the chain again and giving a small gesture with her other hand. A gag appeared over Angela's mouth, silencing her. Broadway and Demona gave a simultaneous growl, and Demona took another angry step toward the two Unseelie.
Madoc looked at Maeve disapprovingly, then back at Demona. "You misunderstand us," he said, smiling. "We have no intention of harming her... provided she gives us the information we need and serves us obediently."
"Unacceptable!" Demona growled, flaring her wings. She stalked closer, ignoring the desperate head shaking Angela was doing, until she was nearly eye to eye with the two fay.
"The words of our agreement were quite clear," Demona hissed menacingly. She produced a small scroll from her belt and held it up. "We bound our agreement with magic - human and fay. It cannot be broken. Angela stays with me!"
Maeve chuckled musically, but Demona was unmoved. "I promised you that you and your daughter would always be together, did I not?" Maeve questioned. "Those were the words you speak of, true?"
Demona scowled, unamused. "Yes," she replied.
"Very well, then." Maeve gave a gesture, and a moment later Demona was on her knees beside Angela on the ground, similarly bound and gagged. Her head shot up and she glared at Maeve with fire in her eyes. "You will both be together always," Maeve said, nodding, "as my slaves."
"And you would've thought she had learned her lesson after the first two times she made a deal with a member the Third Race," Madoc commented dryly. "Take them both back to the castle for questioning. I expect to be landing our forces on the shores of Avalon by morning."
Maeve nodded, and with a gesture, a portal of light appeared behind her. "Come along now," she said, addressing the two captives as she moved toward it.
"No! Let her go!" Broadway screamed. Summoning all his energy, he wrenched himself free of the Halflings who held him and plowed past George Harrison on a collision course for Madoc and Maeve.
Madoc shook his head and calmly raised one hand, and Broadway found himself propelled off his feet and pulled upwards towards the heavens. He tried to uncloak his wings, but they were held fast by the Unseelie Lord's spell. He could only watch as Maeve vanished through the portal, tugging Angela and then Demona along behind her. Then, Madoc lowered his hand with a peremptory gesture. Broadway found himself hurtling rapidly towards the ground. He struggled to free his wings, but just as he was about to do so, the first rays of the sun appeared on the horizon.
"NOOOOO!" yelled the portly gargoyle, feeling himself turning to stone and yet remaining conscious this time. "NOOOO!" he screamed silently, as the ground approached him....
* * * * *
To be concluded...?